Economy Watch: Architecture Firms Enjoyed Stronger Billings in February

New design contracts had their largest monthly gain in February in more than two years, the AIA recently reported.
Source: AIA Architecture Billings Index, February 2017
Source: AIA Architecture Billings Index, February 2017

The American Institute of Architects’ Architecture Billings Index returned to a growth mode in February, after a weak showing in January, the organization reported on Wednesday. The February index came in at 50.7, up from a score of 49.5 in the previous month. The score reflects a minor increase in design services. The new projects inquiry index was 61.5, up from a reading of 60.0 in January, while the new design contracts index climbed from 52.1 to 54.7.

As a leading economic indicator of U.S. construction activity, the index reflects the nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. In recent years, the index has pointed to construction spending growth, though not consistently throughout the real estate industry.

Survey participants are asked whether their billings increased, decreased, or stayed the same in the month that just ended as compared to the previous month, and the results are then compiled by the AIA. The index scores are centered around 50, with scores above 50 indicating an aggregate increase in billings, while scores below 50 point to a decline.

“The sluggish start to the year in architecture firm billings should give way to stronger design activity as the year progresses,” predicted AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “New project inquiries have been very strong through the first two months of the year, and in February new design contracts posted their largest monthly gain in over two years.”