After a precipitous slide in November, demand for design services in the Midwest eked its way back into positive territory in December, according to data compiled by Washington, D.C.-based American Institute of Architects (AIA).

AIA's Architectural Billing Index (ABI), reflecting the nine- to 12-month lead time between billings and construction, showed regional demand for design services rise to 50.8 in December, helping offset a slide from 54.4 to 49.8 between October and November. An ABI score of 50 or greater denotes growing demand for design services. The Midwest has demonstrated positive growth in six of the past seven months. 

By comparison, the south extended its growth streak to seven consecutive months, though billings dipped modestly, from 57.9 to 56.8.. between November and December. The West likewise logged it seventh consecutive month of growth, with a score of 52.7, only a .02 dip from the previous month.

The Northeast remained in negative territory for a fourth consecutive month, declining from 46.7 to 45.5 between November and December.

The overall ABI score for December was 52.2, up from 50.9 in November.

“Business conditions continue to be the strongest at architecture firms in the South and the Western regions,” says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “Particularly encouraging is the continued solid upturn in design activity among institutional firms, since public sector facilities were the last non-residential building project type to recover from the downturn.”

With a score of 52.5, the institutional sector trailed only multifamily residential, which scored 55.7. By comparison, commercial/industrial scored 51.2 and mixed practice 45.8.