The April results from the Work-on-the-Boards survey of architectural firms were released with a mix of good and bad news. The ABI indicated a steep decline in billings, but future works trhough the New Design Contract Index and the New Project Inquiry Score seem topoint toward a healthier summer for many firms. The key elements of this months ABI are as follows:
- After a soft first quarter resulting largely from severe weather across parts of the Northeast and Midwest, expectations were that design billings at architecture firms would rebound in the second quarter. However, at 48.8, the April ABI national score reflected a steeper retrenchment than any of the first three months of the year. However, the April report does hold out hope that business conditions at architecture firms will recover nicely as the year progresses. The new project inquiry score came in at 60.1 for the month, the strongest reading in six months, while the new design contract index score was 53.1, signifying the strongest growth for new work coming into firms since last November.
- Regional readings suggest that the weakness in firm billings has a geographic dimension. Firms in the Northeast reported another month of steep declines, while firms in the Midwest reported essentially flat business conditions. Firms in the South are seeing very healthy conditions, while those in the West have seen steady gains over the past two months. Billings scores by construction sector show how volatile the construction industry has been during this recovery phase. Billing scores for residential firms have been negative for three straight months, coming after more than three years of continuously healthy readings. Commercial/industrial firms also reported a downturn in April after two years of continuous improvement. Institutional firms, which had been the last major sector to see improvement in design activity, continued their upturn in April.
- Firms Have Hiring Designs: Weak business conditions in April, coming on top of a generally disappointing first quarter for the year, have not diminished firms’ expansion plans for the year. Just over half of firms surveyed this month indicate that they plan to add one or more architectural positions over the coming year. Of those firms adding of attempting to add positions over the past year, about a third indicated difficulties finding qualified applicants for all or nearly all of their open positions, about the same share that indicated difficulties in finding applicants for some of their positions.
More information is available at the AIA website on AIAArchitect