AIA’s monthly Architecture Billings Index strengthened again in March, coming in at 55.6, 2.3 points higher than Feburary’s ABI of 53.3. This marks the ABI’s second positive month since it dipped below 50 in February 2020. The ABI is a leading economic indicator of construction activity in the U.S. and reflects a nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending nationally, regionally, and by project type. A score above 50 represents an increase in billings from the previous month, while a score below 50 represents a contraction.
“As business activity at architecture firms moves sharply toward recovery, it is very encouraging to simultaneously see such positive indicators of future project work increasing in the pipeline,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, in the Institute’s press release. “The activity architecture firms are seeing is a positive bellwether not only for the construction outlook, but also for the larger economy.” New project inquiries improved again in March, increasing 5.7 points to 66.8 compared to 61.2 in February. The design contracts score also strengthened, rising 4.1 points to 55.7 compared to March’s score of 51.6. March also marked the first time in three years that all building sectors and regions posted positive scores.
The month-to-month change in scores for regional billings—which, unlike the national score, are calculated as three-month moving averages—increased in March, with all four regions reporting scores above the threshold of 50. Billings in the Midwest rose 7.2 points to a score of 56.5, while billings in the West increased 2.5 points to a score of 52.8. Billings in the South rose 3.4 points to a score of 55.8, and billings in the Northeast also rose 3.9 points to a score of 50.8.
Billings scores increased in all four individual industry sectors with all four sectors also reporting scores above the threshold of 50.0. The commercial/industrial sector rose 6.5 points to a score of 57.0; the institutional sector rose 6.6 points to a score of 54.4. The multifamily residential score rose 4.3 points to a score of 52.6; the mixed practice sector rose 2.4 points to a score of 54.9. Like the regional billings scores, sector billings scores are also calculated as three-month moving averages.