Electrical Marketing’s Leading Economic Indicators

May 23, 2014
Multi-family leads permit filings, architects still slow, industrial purchasing activity still looking strong.

Multi-family market leads building permit activity in April. Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in April were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,080,000, 8% above the revised March rate of 1,000,000 and 3.8% above the April 2013 estimate of 1,040,000. Single-family authorizations in April were at a rate of 602,000, 0.3% above the revised March figure of 600,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 453,000 in April, up 21.8% over March and 16.2% over April 2013.

Architecture Billings Index still in doldrums. The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) has reverted into negative territory for the last two months. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine- to twelve-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. The American Institute of Architects (AIA), Washington, D.C., reported the April ABI score was 49.6, up slightly from a mark of 48.8 in March.

This score reflects a decrease in design activity (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 59.1, up from the reading of 57.9 the previous month. The AIA has a new indicator measuring the trends in new design contracts at architecture firms that can provide a strong signal for the direction of future architecture billings. The score for design contracts in April was 54.6.

 “Despite an easing in demand for architecture services over the last couple of months, there is a pervading sense of optimism that business conditions are poised to improve as the year moves on,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “With a healthy figure for design contracts this should translate into improved billings in the near future.”

Purchasing Managers Index remains strong in April. The April Purchasing Managers Index published monthly by the Tempe, Ariz.-based Institute for Supply Management registered 54.9%, an increase of 1.2 percentage points from March’s reading of 53.7%, indicating expansion in manufacturing for the 11th consecutive month. The New Orders Index registered 55.1%, equal to the reading in March, indicating growth in new orders for the 11th consecutive month.