Last year I wrote about this indicator and in that posting I provided an overview of what the measurement means relative to the building industry. If you are not familiar with this index, I encourage you to click on the link at the beginning of this posting for an overview. I thought it would make sense to provide an update to the numbers and see where we are one year later.
In a nutshell, the index suggests we are about in the same place we were one year ago. Further, the regional trends are also holding steady. The national Architecture Billings Index (ABI) came in at 50.4 for March 2012 (compared to 50.5 for March 2011). Any number north of 50 indicates increased demand for design services (a leading indicator for building). All regions in the U.S., with the exception of the West, were above 50.0 in March 2012. The West came in at 46.6, slightly lower than around the same time last year.
So it's been more of the same in the West, a challenging environment that those of us participating in the building economy know all too well. Hopefully we are bouncing along a bottom and there has been stabilization. Some good news is that there are bright spots in some of the backlogs we're seeing, opportunities for good work do exist. At the same time there are those really tough jobs with bad margins still being worked through in 2012. Last year I stated that it would probably be a few more years before we returned to "times of meaningful growth and strength." That is still most likely the case. In the meantime those contractors who remain positive and keep doing what must be done in order to survive and thrive in these times will eventually be rewarded. We had one contractor say recently he used to work from 7AM to 5PM, now he needs to work from 5AM to 7PM to keep things moving along. Every contractor needs to commit to work smarter and yes, harder in these challenging times to get to better days which will return.
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