Economy Watch: Architectural Billings Slow in March

In the midst of construction labor shortages, project backlogs are currently in excess of six months—their highest post-recession level—The American Institute of Architects reported in its latest Architecture Billings Index.

The American Institute of Architects reported on Wednesday that its Architecture Billings Index score for March was 51.0, which still reflects a healthy business environment for architects and (by extension) developers, but is down from 52.0 in February. Project backlogs, according to the report, are in excess of six months at present—their highest post-recession level.

The index is an leading economic indicator of commercial and residential construction activity, reflecting the nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The index is designed to predict U.S. construction spending growth, though not always in each property sector.

To calculate the index, the AIA asks members whether their billings increased, decreased, or stayed the same for the month compared to the month before. The index centers around 50, with results above 50 pointing to an increase in billings, while results below 50 mean a decline.

Also on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve published its latest Beige Book, which reported that U.S. economic activity continued to expand at a “modest to moderate pace” across the 12 Federal Reserve Districts in March and early April. Outlooks remained positive, but executives in manufacturing, agriculture, and transportation expressed concern about the newly imposed or proposed tariffs.

Labor markets across the country remained tight, restraining job gains in some regions, the book said. Businesses report difficulty finding qualified candidates in various industries and different skill levels. Reports of labor shortages were most often cited in high-skill positions, including engineering, information technology, and health care, as well as in construction and transportation.