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Electrical Marketing’s Leading Economic Indicators for July 2017

Aug. 25, 2017
Billings at U.S. architecture firms continued their upward trajectory in July while building permits and purchasing managers' outlook slipped.

Building permits drop 4.1% in July. Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in July were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,223,000, - 4.1% below the revised June rate of 1,275,000, but +4.1% above the July 2016 rate of 1,175,000. Single-family authorizations in July were at a rate of 811,000, This is unchanged from the revised June figure of 811,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 377,000 in July.

Purchasing Managers Index edges down in July. The July PMI registered 56.3%, down 1.5 percentage points from the June reading of 57.8%, according to the latest Manufacturing ISM Report On Business published monthly by the Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. Any reading over 50 points means purchasing managers see a bullish industrial purchasing environment. The New Orders Index registered 60.4%, a decrease of 3.1 percentage points from the June reading of 63.5%.

Architect billings stay strong. Billings at U.S. architecture firms continued their upward trajectory in July. The American Institute of Architects’ Architecture Billings Index (ABI) was 51.9 for the month, a bit below the 52.1 average for the first six months of the year but still signifying healthy growth. The ABI has now been reflecting gains in billings for six straight months, after a modest decline in January.
Index scores for project inquiries and new design contracts have been just as positive. The reading for new design contracts was 56.4 in July, its highest reading for the year. Given that new project work is mostly growing faster than billings this year, architecture firms have been building up backlogs in recent months.
Firms with all building type specializations have been benefiting from the healthy business conditions. Multi-family residential as well as commercial/industrial firms posted average scores in excess of 55 for the month, for both specialties the highest readings in three years. Even institutional firms were seeing relatively healthy conditions with a July score of 52.0 for firms with this specialization, just below their average for the first six months of the year.