Following consecutive months of record low scores, the Architectural Billings Index (ABI) of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) rose slightly in December, but remained near its lowest level, "signifying that the design industry is mired in a steep downturn," the AIA news release stated.
The December ABI rating was 36.4, up from 34.7 in November. Any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings.
All regions reported similar figures: 35.3 in the West and South, 35.5 in the Midwest and 34.4 in the Northeast.
The commercial/industrial sector was the weakest, with a 28.1 rating. Mixed practice was the strongest, at 45.1, followed by institutional (39.3) and multi-family residential (30.0).
"The inability to get financing for construction projects is the key reason that business conditions continue to be so poor at design firms," explained Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist. "It will be important to see what the proposed economic stimulus package includes that is geared towards the construction industry, and how quickly developers who have had to put projects on hold can get them moving again."