AEC Recovery Signs Pile Up

The AEC economic recovery seems to be gathering steam, according to many key indicators. Here are the facts:

The AIA Architecture Billings Index jumped to 52.9 in May, up 4.2 points from April. This index is derived from a survey of AIA members that asks if billings are up, down, or the same from the previous month. A score of 50 means they were the same, so 52.9 is solidly in the positive area. This is the tenth positive monthly billings index in the last eleven months, indicating a solid overall recovery.

“This rebound is a good sign for the design and construction industry and hopefully means that April’s negative dip was a blip rather than a sign of challenging times to come,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA.

Other strong recent economic indicators include:

Housing Permits and Starts: The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that 974,000 permits for privately owned houses were issued in May. This is a 3.1 percent dip from April figures, but a 20.8 percent jump from May 2012. Furthermore, housing starts – that is, actual nails being pounded into boards – was up 6.8 percent over April and 28.6 percent over May 2012.

Construction Employment: Construction employment rose to 5,812,000 jobs in June, up from 5,799,000 jobs in May, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accordingly, the unemployment rate for the construction industry fell from 10.8 percent in May to 9.8 percent in June. (These numbers are “seasonally adjusted,” which means they take into account to a certain extent the fact that construction employment naturally increases in warmer weather.)

ENR Construction Cost Index: Engineering News Record, a trade publication for the engineering industry, measures average construction costs across the country each month. For July 2013, the Construction Cost Index, which incorporates the cost of labor, steel, concrete, and wood, was up 2.5 percent from the previous year. That means demand is up, meaning overall construction business is climbing.

All of these indicators, and many others, point towards a broad recovery in AEC work.

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