A new report from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) shows that the nearly three-point bump in January has continued to carry the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) to its first positive mark since February 2020.

AIA’s ABI score for February was 53.3 compared to the 44.9 it was in January. Any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings. February 2021 also marked the first time the design contract score was recorded in the positive territory since the pandemic began, with a score of 51.6 compared to 48.8 in January. The new project inquiries score for February reached a 22-month high water mark with a score of 61.2 compared to 56.8 in January.

“Hopefully, this is the start of a more sustained recovery. It is possible that scores will continue to bounce above and below 50 for the next few months, as recoveries often move in fits and starts,” said AIA chief economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “Beyond the encouraging billing data, architecture employment added 700 new positions in January and has now regained 45 percent of the jobs that were lost since the beginning of the pandemic.” 

Key ABI highlights for February include:

• Regional averages: South (52.4); West (49.5); Midwest (49.3); Northeast (46.9)
• Sector index breakdown: mixed practice (52.5); commercial/industrial (50.5); multi-family residential (48.3); institutional (47.8)
• Project inquiries index: 61.2
• Design contracts index: 51.6

The regional and sector categories are calculated as a three-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts and inquiries are monthly numbers.