After showing signs of growth in late 2012 and early 2013, demand for design services in the Midwest sputtered for a third consecutive month in June, according to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Architectural Billing Index (ABI). Moreover, the Midwest is the only U.S. region mired in negative territory.

AIA reports the overall ABI score slipped from 52.9 in May to 51.6 in June, but notes that any score above 50 denotes increasing demand for design work. The Midwest wasn't so lucky, scoring only 48.3.

By comparison, the Northeast (55.6) led all regions, followed by the South (54.8) and West (51.2).

As most Midwest designers and builders know, the region has not enjoyed as robust a recovery as elsewhere, circumstances economists variously attribute to lagging industrial demand, troubled state economies and a lingering hangover in Chicago in the wake of giddy gorging during the height of the housing boom.

Nevertheless, economists believe it is housing that will lead the region back to prosperity, now that the market has stabilized and sales and values finally are on the rise. Cheaper energy, when it becomes more readily available, also should help.

States like Illinois have succeeded in putting many designers and builders back to work with large transportation and infrastructure programs, but for those involved in the non-residential building sector, recovery can't come soon enough.