Demand for design services fell again in September according to the latest Architecture Billings Index (ABI) from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The last time the ABI posted two consecutive months of a decrease in design services was back in the summer of 2012. It’s too early to say whether this recent downturn is a reason to panic or if it’s just a bump in the road.
“We’re three weeks away from the Presidential election and all the current economic data has to be read with extreme caution,” stated ConstructConnect Chief Economist Alex Carrick. “It probably won’t be until near the end of this year before the clouds of uncertainty will finally be dispersed and capital spending decisions can be made according to more normal criteria.”
September’s score of 48.4 was 1.3 points lower than August’s score of 49.7. September’s score was the lowest it’s been since April 2015 when the ABI score was 48.8. The ABI acts as a barometer for future nonresidential construction spending and activity with the average lead time between billings and construction spending typically running around nine months to a year. (Scores above 50 indicate an increase in billings and scores below 50 indicate a decrease.)
The new projects inquiry index for September remained high at 59, down slightly from August’s 61.8. The design contracts index in September was also above 50 at 51.4 after climbing to 52.7 in August.
The three-month moving averages for the South and Midwest regions remained above 50 in September while the Northeast continues to drop. The three-month regional average for the South was 53.4 and the Midwest was at 50.1. The West climbed a half point from August to 49.5. The Northeast dropped to 44.0 following a score of 44.9 in August.
The only sector that remained in positive territory in September was Commercial/Industrial with a score of 50.4. The other three sectors all dropped below 50 in September. Mixed Practice declined from 51.8 to 49.8, Institutional which had been holding steady at 50.7 dipped to 49.0 and Multi-family Residential fell from 50.9 to 48.8 in September.