May 23 The Architectural Billing Index (ABI) compiled monthly by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), fell almost three points in April, dipping into negative territory after several months of relatively positive business conditions, according to the latest survey results.
The AIA called the April reading of 47.6, down from 50.5 in March, "a precipitous decrease." The ABI is considered to be a nine to 12-month leading indicator of construction activity. Any score over 50 indicates an increase in billings, under 50 indicates a decline.
The ABI score had remained level in positive territory since the beginning of the year, following a period of growth in the fall.
"The first question is whether this drop is a sign of an industry wide reversal in demand for design services or a bump in the road," said Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist. "The fact that most construction projects funded under the federal stimulus program have completed their design work, the anxiety around the possibility of a shutdown in the federal government in April, as well as the unusually severe weather in the Southeast had something to do with this falloff," he said.
"However, the majority of firms are reporting at least one stalled project in-house because of the continued difficulty in obtaining financing. That issue continues to be the main roadblock to recovery," Baker added.
The Northeast (51.2) and Midwest (51.1) regions continue to show growth, while billings in the South (48.3) and West (47.7) were declining in April.