According to the AIA, February Billings stagnated at 50.6, a fraction higher than January’s 50.0. Though any number above 50 is considered positive territory, AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker found the new results tepid at best. “Overall demand for design services seems to be treading water over the last two months,” Baker said in a statement. New inquiries also maintained a hovering action, hitting 56.4 in February, from 56.5 in January.
The Midwest leads the national pack, with an index reading of 55.3. The area outperformed the rest of the country but dropped ever so slightly from its January high of 56.4. The South followed with 50.1, while the West and Northeast fell into negative territory at 49.1 and 46.4 respectively, with the West finally ceding its long held last place position to the Northeast.
The sector breakdown took the commercial/ industrial index to 55.0, up from 54.6 last month. Mixed practices pulled out of the negative territory from 48.7 up to 51.3. Multi-family residential dipped to 49.7 from 53.7, and institutional moved slightly from 48.7 to 48.9. Project inquiries remained fairly steady at 56.4, though down marginally from 56.5.
While construction added 33,000 jobs, architecture firms dropped 1,000 after a mid-2010 uptick in hiring. An AIA survey panel found that nearly a quarter of all firms surveyed (24 percent) received some form of revenue resulting from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The flat results of the first two months of 2011 dampened the hopeful mood resulting from an upswing in the fourth quarter. Still, in the end Baker found the glass to be half full. “We’ve been preaching patience and cautious optimism for a full recovery because there continues to be a wide range of business conditions for architecture firms that are also influenced by firm size, practice specialties, and regional location,” said the economist. “We still expect the road to recovery to move at a slow steady pace.”