Reflecting the continuing volatility of the nation's economic recovery, the American Institute of Architects' (AIA) July Architecture Billings Index (ABI) increased by nearly two points from the previous month to a score of 47.9. Since April, the ABI has fluctuated up and down, falling in May from 48.5 to 45.8 and then improving by an almost negligible 0.2 points in June. July's 1.9-point improvement is welcome, but it is unlikely demand will increase above a score of 50—indicating an increase in demand for design services—anytime soon.

Kermit Baker, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, chief economist for the AIA, notes that the current instability of the overall economy will keep business conditions at design firms in a state of flux, and the ABI will continue to reflect the widely varying reports on design markets. 

New projects inquiries fell from 57.7 to 53.1 in July.

The commercial/industrial sector remains the strongest overall, with a score of 50.4 (a 0.2-point decrease from June), followed by the institutional sector (47.9—a 2-point improvement from June), multifamily residential (47.5—a 1-point increase), and mixed practice (42.9, down from 44.7 in June). The regional breakdown shows the South leading with a score of 47.9, followed closely by the Northeast (47.2), Midwest (46.7), and West (45.2).

Read about June's Architecture Billings Index.