Architects Report More Business in August

The Architecture Billings Index returned to positive territory after a dip in August.

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) returned to positive territory after a dip in August, having seen growth in six of the nine months of the year so far, according to the American Institute of Architects on Wednesday. The index offers an advance look at the pace of construction spending, about nine to 12 months ahead. It takes a “Work-on-the-Boards” survey among a panel of AIA member-owned firms in which participants are asked whether their billings increased, decreased, or stayed the same in the month just ended, as compared to the previous month, and the results are also seasonally adjusted.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the September ABI score was 53.7, up from 49.1 in August. The score reflects an increase in design services (with any score above 50 indicating an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 61.0, down from 61.8 the previous month. “Aside from uneven demand for design services in the Northeast, all regions and project sectors are in good shape,” AIA chief economist Kermit Baker noted in a statement. “Areas of concern are shifting to supply issues for the industry, including volatility in building materials costs, a lack of a deep enough talent pool to keep up with demand, as well as a lack of contractors to execute design work.”

An improving job market in local and state markets across the country is one of the reasons for the relative health of demand for architectural services. Separately on Wednesday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 37 states and the District of Columbia had unemployment rate decreases in September compared with August, while only six states had increases. Forty-one states and D.C. had unemployment rate decreases compared with a year earlier, seven states had increases, and two states had no change. The national jobless rate was 0.8 percentage points lower than in September 2014.

Despite the energy market slump, North Dakota had the lowest jobless rate in September, 2.8 percent, with Nebraska second lowest at 2.9 percent. West Virginia had the highest state unemployment rate in the nation at 7.3 percent. All together, 19 states had unemployment rates significantly lower than the U.S. figure of 5.1 percent, 12 states and D.C. had measurably higher rates, and 19 states had rates about the same as the nation. The largest job decreases for the month occurred in Missouri, which lost a net of 16,500 positions; Pennsylvania, down 16,400; and Hawaii (down 8,100). The largest job gains for the month happened in Texas (up 26,600), South Carolina (up 6,300), and Kansas (up 4,900).