Steel Markets

Dismal December ABI for Nonresidential Construction

Written by Sandy Williams

The Architecture Billings Index took another plunge in December, falling to 42.6 from 46.3. A score below 50 shows a decline in demand for design planning and is a leading economic indicator for nonresidential construction activity. 

“Since the national economic recovery appears to have stalled, architecture firms are entering 2021 facing a continued sluggish design market,” said the American Institute of Architects’ Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “However, the recently passed federal stimulus funding should help shore up the economy in the short-term, and hopefully by later this year there should be relief as COVID vaccinations become more widespread. Recent project inquiries from prospective and former clients have been positive, suggesting that new work may begin picking up as we move into the spring and summer months.”

The new inquiries index was flat but positive at 52.4 in December, while the value of new design contracts remained in contraction at 48.5. Declines were prevalent across all sectors and regions.

Key ABI highlights for December include:

  • Regional averages: South (46.8); Midwest (43.6); West (43.4); Northeast (38.8)
  • Sector index breakdown: mixed practice (48.0); commercial/industrial (47.2); multi-family residential (46.1); institutional (38.5)
  • Project inquiries index: 52.4
  • Design contracts index: 48.5

Note: The regional and sector categories are calculated as a three-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.

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