The Architecture Billings Index pointed to a slower decline in July in design activity at U.S. architecture firms. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending.

The American Institute of Architects reported the July ABI score was 48.7, up considerably from the mark of 45.9 in June. This score reflects a decrease in demand for design services (any score below 50 indicates a decline in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 56.3, up from mark of 54.4 the previous month.

“Even though architecture firm billings nationally were down again in July, the downturn moderated substantially,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “As long as overall economic conditions continue to show improvement, modest declines should shift over to growth in design activity over the coming months.”

Key July ABI highlights:

•    Regional averages: South (52.7), Midwest (46.7) West (45.3),  Northeast (44.3)

•    Sector index breakdown: multifamily (51.4), mixed practice (49.1), commercial/industrial (48.4), institutional (46.6)

•    Project inquiries index: 56.3.