The October Architectural Billings Index (ABI) of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) reached its highest level since August 2008, just prior to serious credit problems slamming the U.S. economy.
The ABI is considered a leading indicator of construction activity, running some nine to twelve months ahead of construction spending.
The October rating of 46.1 was up sharply from September's 43.1. However, any score under 50 indicates a decline in demand for design services.
The new projects inquiries score was 58.5, down slightly from 59.1 in September. Scores above 50 indicate an increase in the number of inquiries for new work.
"This news could prove to be an early signal towards a recovery for the design and construction industry," said Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist. "On the other hand, because we continue to get reports of architecture firms struggling in a competitive marketplace with a continued decline in commercial property values, it is far too early to think we are out of the woods."
In October, the South was the strongest region with a score of 46.1 and the West trailed at 42.8. The institutional sector was strongest at 48.7, with multi-family (45.4) and commercial/industrial following (41.7).