As feared, the AIA’s Architecture Billings Index remains in bleak territory, with the release of December’s numbers today. While the overall billings reading gained slightly, to 36.4 from 34.7, it still remains far from the 50-point mark that indicates a turnaround. And in a continued sign that interest in new work is all but non-existent, inquiries fell last month, to 37.7 from 38.3, putting them at a new record low.
“The inability to get financing for construction projects is a key reason that business conditions continue to be so poor at design firms,” Kermit Baker, the AIA’s chief economist, said in a statement. “It will be important to see what the proposed economic stimulus package includes that is geared towards the construction industry, and how quickly developers who have had to put projects on hold can get them moving again.”
Regionally, the Northeast and South each fell a few points while the Midwest and West gained as much. But, as with the wider index, all four remain in the mid-30s, suggesting continued weakness as opposed to any real improvement or decline.
Likewise, the commercial/industrial sector gained a point-and-a-half, to 28.1, but it still remains below 30 for the second month in a row, in line with the near-total collapse of the office and manufacturing markets in the country. The institutional sector lost just as much, now sinking below the 40-point mark, to a record low of 39.3, another bad sign given the general dependence of the industry on such work during recessionary periods.
Residential work held at 30.0, its lowest level ever, but also possibly an indication of the market’s bottoming out, though that also still puts it far from recovery. And in a final sliver of good news, and perhaps even an indication of future growth, mixed-use projects saw their billings rise slightly to 45.1 from 44.5. While that sector has been hovering in that range for some time, the relative stability of its decline could suggest a quicker recovery.