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April ABI Shows Weakening Business Conditions

Following last month’s precipitous decline, billings at architecture firms sank even lower in April, as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to have a severe impact on firm business. The ABI score, compiled by the American Institute of Architects, declined to 29.3, a new all-time low for the index (a score below 50 indicates decreasing billings), with more than half of responding firms reporting a further decline in their firm billings from March to April. Inquiries into new work also remained extremely low in April, although modestly fewer firms reported a decline in inquiries than in March, say analysts. However, immediate prospects for new work remain bleak, as the value of new design contracts also remained extremely low.

Regionally, business conditions weakened even further at architecture firms in the Northeast in April, where many areas remained under construction stop orders for the entire month. Those restrictions are slowly being lifted, so firms in that region may see conditions that are not quite as weak in May. Firms located in the West continued to report somewhat less dramatic losses than firms in other regions in April, but overall, billings declined significantly across the country. Billings also weakened substantially at firms of all specializations in March, with firms with a commercial specialization reporting the largest decline, followed by firms with a multifamily residential specialization.

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