March’s Architecture Billings Index reports significant drop from previous month

In a large drop from February, the AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) for March has reported a decline in billings for the 14th consecutive month. The score for March was a low 43.6, down from 49.5—a 5.6 difference. Any score below 50 marks a decline in billings from the previous month.

In February, the AIA was optimistic, saying the slightly improved index suggested “the recent slowdown may be receding.” AIA’s chief economist Kermit Baker added that business conditions were looking like they may pick up in the coming months. March’s number spoke otherwise, however. While inflation and supply chain issues have eased since 2023 and 2022, the AIA noted in the March index they may still be affecting economic conditions in the architecture industry.

With the national average notably down, new design contracts remain up, albeit with slow, stable growth. According to the AIA this indicates “that clients are interested in starting new projects but remain hesitant to sign a contract and officially commit to those projects.” The AIA also noted in the March report that architects continue to have a backlog of projects keeping them busy. The average project backlog is 6.6 months.

In addition to the national average, the AIA also breaks down the ABI regionally. This month all regions reported scores under 50, indicating a drop in billings from the previous. Billings were the most sluggish in the South and Midwest, with scores of 45.3 and 45.2, respectively. In March the strongest score came out of the West, 47.6.

Firms with a focus on institutional projects have continuously reported the strongest billings. This remains the case, however, the index for institutional has remained somewhat stable dropping to 49.9 from 50.7 in February. As has been the trend recently, multifamily residential remains the sector reporting the lowest billings.

In the March report the AIA also provided data on the architecture industry’s state of employment. The numbers from February indicate that since the start of 2024 employment in the industry “has generally been flat or declining every month since the strong gains in early 2023.”

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