After an eight point jump in March, the Architectural Billings Index (ABI) of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) dipped slightly last month, but continued to indicate improvement in the market.
The April index was 42.8, down less than a point from March's 43.7 mark. However, this was the first time since August-September last year that the index was above 40 for consecutive months.
More positive was the new project inquiries index. This stood at 56.8 in April, up just 0.2 point from March, but in the range that indicates growth for the second consecutive month. April was the third straight month to show improvement.
Anything under 50 indicates a decline in demand; above means demand is rising. The index is considered a leading indicator of construction activity by some nine to twelve months.
"The most encouraging part of this news is that this is the second month with very strong inquiries for new projects. A growing number of architecture firms report potential projects arising from federal stimulus funds," said Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist. "What these figures mean is that we could be seeing things turn around over a period of several months," he added.