The American Institute of Architects (ABI) says that its leading indicator of construction activity, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) contracted for the second month in December.  This is the first time since May and June 2012 that the index has fallen in two consecutive months. 

The ABI indicates the approximate nine to 12 month lead time between architectural billings and the resulting non-residential construction expenditures.  AIA said the December ABI score was 48.5, down from 49.8 in November, reflecting a decrease in billing for design services.  Any score above 50 indicates an increase in billing.  The new projects inquiry index was 59.2, an increase from the November reading of 57.8.

"What we thought last month was an isolated dip now bears closer examination to see what is causing the slowdown in demand for architectural services," said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. "It is possible that some of this can be attributed to the anxiety in the marketplace caused by the shutdown of the federal government, but it will be important to see how business conditions fare through the first quarter of the new year when we no longer have end of the year issues to deal with."

The Western region had a score of 53.2 in December and the South 51.2, indicating an increase in billing.  The Midwest and the Northeast moved in the opposite direction with scores of 47.0 and 42.8 respectively.  By sector the scores were, multi-family residential (53.8), mixed practice 51.0), commercial /industrial (47.1), institutional (44.8).  The regional and sector categories are calculated as a 3-month moving average, whereas the index and inquiries are monthly numbers.

Participants in the AIA survey are asked whether their billings increased, decreased, or stayed the same in the month that just ended as compared to the prior month, and the results are then compiled into the ABI. These monthly results are also seasonally adjusted to allow for comparison to prior months.