June ABI Points to Stabilizing Business Conditions
Business conditions at architecture firms continued to stabilize in June, following their peak declines in April, according to the American Institute of Architects. While the ABI score of 40.0 for the month means that the majority of architecture firms still saw their billings decline from May to June, the pace of that decline slowed significantly. Inquiries into new work nearly returned to the positive in June, as clients began trying to restart projects. However, the value of new design contracts still lags behind, as many potential clients are price shopping to multiple firms, but will ultimately only select one to work with. Firm backlogs also began to tick back up, rising from an average of 5.0 months in March to 5.3 months in June. However, concerns remain about whether the momentum will continue on its current trajectory, or if the gains reported in the last two months will be reversed as COVID-19 cases rise across the country once again.
While business conditions remained fairly soft at firms across the country, the pace of the decline in billings slowed at firms in all regions except the West, where billings declined at about the same pace as in May. By firm specialization, there was more of a disparity though, as firms with a commercial specialization continued to report very soft conditions, while firms with a multifamily residential specialization saw encouraging conditions, and came closer to seeing growth for the first time since January. Unfortunately, conditions at firms with a commercial specialization are likely to remain weak for an extended period of time, until restaurant and retail facilities can fully reopen and resume business.