ABI Scores First Positive Since Pandemic Began

MONDAY, MARCH 29, 2021

The American Institute of Architects reported on February’s Architecture Billings Index late last week announced its first positive mark since February 2020.

AIA’s ABI score for February was 53.3 compared to 44.9 in January—any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings. February also marked the first time the design contract score rose back into positive territory since the COVID-19 pandemic began with a score of 51.6 compared to 48.8 in January.

The new project inquiries score for February reached a 22-month high with a score of 61.2 compared to 56.8 in January.  

“Hopefully, this is the start of a more sustained recovery. It is possible that scores will continue to bounce above and below 50 for the next few months, as recoveries often move in fits and starts,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD.

“Beyond the encouraging billing data, architecture employment added 700 new positions in January and has now regained 45% of the jobs that were lost since the beginning of the pandemic.”

Other highlights from the ABI include:

  • Regional averages of South (52.4), West (49.5), Midwest (49.3), Northeast (46.9);
  • Sector index of mixed practice (52.5), commercial/industrial (50.5), multi-family residential (48.3), institutional (47.8);
  • Project inquiries index of 61.2; and
  • Design contracts index of 51.6.

Previous Numbers

One of the ABI’s lowest points was at the end of March 2020, when it plummeted from the pandemic. That index revealed a 20.1 drop in points to a score of 33.3. The score nearly doubled the decrease of 9.4 points experienced at the beginning of the 2001 recession and the loss of 8.3 points recorded during the Great Recession, making it the index’s largest single month decline in its nearly 25-year history.

In addition to issuing the ABI, in mid-March, the AIA also asked responding firms a series of questions about actions they had taken thus far in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they thought the pandemic, and ensuing economic downturn, will impact their firms through the end of the year.

In tallying the responses and varying concerns, AIA reported at the time that responding firms expected, among other things, to see a decrease in billings; to expect a decline in revenue; and revenue losses.

To adjust to these financial changes, AIA reported that, at that time:

  • 53% of firms implemented a hiring freeze;
  • 32% of firms froze staff salaries;
  • 13% of firms reduced staff;
  • 12% of firms reduced salaries;
  • 10% of firms implemented staff furloughs; and
  • 8% of firms converted some or all positions from full-time to part-time.

Tagged categories: American Institute of Architects (AIA); COVID-19; Economy; Good Technical Practice; Jobs; Market data; NA; North America

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