The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) a forward looking index of construction activity, finished March in positive territory for the fifth consecutive month.  The ABI is derived from a monthly survey of firms owned by members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to determine their "Work-on-the-Board."  Participants are asked to compare current billings with those the previous month, indicating whether they have increased, decreased or were unchanged.  Scores over 50 indicate an aggregate increase in billing; below 50 indicate a decline.  The survey, which covers non-residential activity and is seasonally adjusted, reflects the approximate nine to 12 month lag between architectural billing and construction spending and is considered predictive. 

In March the ABI score was 50.4, following a score of 51.0 in February.  The March figure reflects a slight increase in demand for design services.  The new projects inquiry index was 56.6, down from 63.4 in February.

 "We are starting to hear more about improving conditions in the marketplace, with a greater sense of optimism that there will be greater demand for design services," said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA.  "But that is not across the board and there are still a number of architecture firms struggling so progress is likely to be measured in inches rather than miles for the next few months."

Monthly ABI scores are given as numbers, the regional and sector averages provided by AIA are in the form of three-month moving averages.  The Regional averages for the month were:  Midwest (54.1), Northeast (53.9), South (50.1), and West (46.6).  Sector Index breakdowns were:   commercial / industrial (56.0), multi-family residential (51.9), institutional (47.7), and mixed practice (47.2).