April 20 Architectural billings, considered a leading indicator of construction activity, have remained steady around the "break-even level" throughout the first quarter of the year, according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
The March Architectural Billings Index (ABI) reading of 50.5 is a negligible drop from February's 50.6. The Index was 50.0 in January.
Any reading over 50 indicates billings growth. Under 50 indicates declining billings.
Sounding a more positive note, the new projects inquiry index was 58.7 in March, up more than two points from 56.4 in February and January's 56.5
"Currently, architecture firms are essentially caught swimming upstream in a situation where demand is not falling back into the negative territory, but also not exhibiting the same pace of increases seen at the end of 2010," said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker. "The range of conditions reported continues to span a very wide spectrum with some firms reporting an improving business environment and even ramping up staffing, while others continue to operate in survival mode."
The Northeast, Midwest and West all scored positive readings in March. Only the South posted a reading in negative territory, 49.7.