Economy Watch: Consumer Price Index, Architects

The Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers increased by 0.1 in September month over month. The Architecture Billings Index for September was up 2.2 percent compared to August.

Inflation is at a very low ebb in the United States these days. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Wednesday that the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 0.1 percent in September compared with August. Over the last 12 months, the all items index has increased 1.7 percent.

Increases in shelter and food costs barely outweighed declines in energy indexes, to result in the smallish all items increase. The BLS’s food index rose 0.3 percent, as five of the six major grocery store food groups increased. Energy costs dropped 0.7 percent, as the price of gasoline, electricity, and fuel oil all fell.

Take food and energy out of the equation – resulting in the so-called core rate of inflation – and the index for also increased 0.1 percent in September. The 12-month change for all items less food and energy also came in at 1.7 percent.

Architects Busier in September 

The American Institute of Architects reported on Wednesday that its Architecture Billings Index for September came in at 55.2, up from 53.0 in August. This score reflects an increase in design activity (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 64.8, following 62.6 the previous month.

As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the index reflects about nine to 12 months’ lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The AIA recently added a new indicator measuring trends in new design contracts at architecture firms, which can provide a strong signal of the direction of future billings. The score for design contracts in August was 56.8, pointing to more billings ahead.

“Strong demand for apartment buildings and condominiums has been one of the main drivers in helping to keep the design and construction market afloat in recent years,” AIA chief economist Kermit Baker noted in a statement. “There continues to be a healthy market for those types of design projects, but the recently resurgent institutional sector is leading to broader growth for the entire construction industry.”

After a few days of increases, Wall Street took another dive on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 153.49 points, or 0.92 percent. The S&P 500 was off 0.73 percent and the Nasdaq dropped 0.83 percent.