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By John McCurdy

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The decline in the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) in April — the first in 10 months — appears to have been a blip on the radar. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported June’s score was 51.6, slightly down from May’s mark of 52.9, but still showing increasing demand for design services.

A number greater than 50 reflects an increase in billings, while a score lower reflects a decrease, according to the AIA. Widely considered a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to 12 month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending.

“With steady demand for design work in all major nonresidential building categories, the construction sector seems to be stabilizing,” says Kermit Baker, chief economist for the AIA.

The new projects inquiry index for June, 62.6, was a significant increase from that of May, 59.1.The ABI also includes more specific figures breaking down the growth, these three-month moving averages as opposed to monthly figures.

Among the different property types monitored, commercial/industrial posted the highest score with 54.7. Multifamily residential was not far behind at 54.0, mixed practice scored 52.4, and institutional scored 51.8.

As for the regional indexes, the Northeast scored the highest at 55.6. The South and West also posted positives at 54.8 and 51.2, respectively. The Midwest lagged at 48.3.

Despite its optimism about the trend line in the billings index, the AIA’s Baker acknowledges some possible headwinds.

“Threats to a sustained recovery include construction costs and labor availability, inability to access financing for real estate projects, and possible adverse effects in the coming months from sequestration and the looming federal debt ceiling debate.”

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