For the fifth straight month the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) has posted negative figures, with the only positive number on the chart coming from billing inquiries.
The overall number dropped from 46.3 in June to 45.1 in July (any ABI number below 50 is considered negative). AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker once again pointed to the larger economy as the source of industry woes. “The stuff that’s going on with the national level is consistent with what we’re experiencing,” said Baker, adding that given the current political situation he didn’t think another stimulus package would make it through Congress. “The politics of that is going to be tough; there’s a problem with increased spending,” he said. Even if it did, the last package didn’t really trickle down to the industry. “I have a hunch if there’s a chance it would go through, it would look a lot like the last stimulus and architects didn’t get a lot from that,” he said.
There were no regional leaders this time out, with all areas falling below 50. The West went from 51.7 to 46.6, the Midwest 44.6 to 44.9, the South 47.3 to 46.9, and the Northeast went from 47.6 to 46.4. In the sector breakdown, mixed practices dove from 51.7 to 47.1, while commercial/institutional slipped from 50.0 to 47.9. Multi-family residential fell from 49.6 to 44.7, and institutional shifted from 45.9 to 47.2.
Meanwhile, last month’s light at the end of the tunnel, a project inquiry index of 58.1 got a lot smaller, falling to 53.7. While still a positive number, Baker said last month’s inquiries didn’t translate into good numbers for this month. “It’s going to take a broader turnaround in the economy,” he concluded.