In spite of being healthy for the overwhelming majority of 2015, the architecture (and by extension, construction) industry are showing some signs of weakness. These may be the side effects of widespread anxiety that are also showing up in angry politicians domestically, global geopolitical uncertainty, falling commodity prices (oil!), all of the above or none of the above. It is also unclear as to whether this is a trend or an outlier, but nonetheless, architecture billings fell last month and that's something we in the construction industry should be watching.
Let's review the hard data, but first the obligatory background: the ABI records architectural billings on commercial building projects. Any value greater than 50 means that architecture billings are increasing; conversely, any value less than 50 means billings are decreasing. The ABI is a leading indicator of commercial building construction by approximately nine to 12 months.
The composite January 2016 ABI figure was 49.6, down from 51.3 in December 2015, showing a contraction in architecture billings. In similar fashion, the new project inquiry index declined to 55.3 in January, down from 60.5 in December. While this is far from great news, remember that one data point does not make a trend.
Here's are things are stacking up in your neck of the woods:
Sector Averages for January 2016:
One last reminder, this is one month's worth of data. No need to quit the industry just yet. Long term trends are still very positive, but it may be time to focus on building a career with a stable company. If downward trends continue, as would not be unexpected given the tear the AEC industry has been experiencing for a year (or more, depending where you live in the U.S.). The crazy period of contractors hiring people as fast as possible may be ending (or at least cooling) and they will become increasingly choosy.