February 23 Architectural billings lost momentum in January after a series of gains in the fourth quarter of 2010, reported the American Institute of Architects today.
The January Architectural Billings Index (ABI) was 50, down nearly four points from December (53.9). A reading of 50 indicates, "stable demand for design services," said the AIA news release. However the new projects inquiry index was down sharply in January, falling to 56.5 from December’s 61.6 reading
The ABI is considered a 9- to 12-month leading indicator of construction activity. A reading over 50 indicates growth in billings; under 50 a decline.
"This slowdown is indicative of what is likely to be a very gradual improvement in business conditions at architecture firms for the better part of this year," said Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist. "We’ve been taking a cautiously optimistic approach for the last several months and there is no reason at this point to change that outlook. There are still too many firms that continue to see weak market conditions to expect a dramatic increase in the demand for services in the design and construction industry.
Regionally, the Midwest (56.4) South (51.5) and Northeast (50.4) showed positive readings, while the index was negative in the West (47.3).