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Electrical Marketing's Leading Economic Indicators - October 20, 2023 Update

Oct. 20, 2023
Building permits slide in September

Privately‐owned housing units authorized by building permits in September were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,473,000, -4.4% below the revised August rate of 1,541,000 and -7.2% below the Sept. 2022 rate of 1,588,000. Single‐family authorizations in September were at a rate of 965,000, +1.8% above the revised August figure of 948,000.

Architects turn bearish in September

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported that business conditions at architecture firms declined again in September according to its AIA/Deltek Architecture Billings Index (ABI) reports. The score of 44.8 points for September is the lowest score reported since Dec. 2020 during the height of the pandemic. Any score below 50 points indicates decreasing business conditions and this score indicates a significant increase in firms reporting declining billings.

“The September ABI score reflects a marked downturn in business conditions at architecture firms, with the sharpest decline observed since the peak of the pandemic,” said Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist, in the press release. “While more firms are reporting a decrease in billings, the report also shows the hesitance among clients to commit to new projects with a slump in newly signed design contracts. As a result, backlogs at architecture firms fell to 6.5 months on average in the third quarter, their lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2021.”

Conference Board is not too optimistic about 2024

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index (LEI) for the U.S. declined by -0.4% in August 2023 to 105.4 (2016=100), following a decline of -0.3% in July. The LEI is down- 3.8% over the six-month period between Feb. 2023 and Aug. 2023 — little changed from its -3.9% contraction over the previous six months (Aug. 2022 to Feb. 2023).

“With August’s decline, the U.S. Leading Economic Index has now fallen for nearly a year and a half straight, indicating the economy is heading into a challenging growth period and possible recession over the next year,” said Justyna Zabinska-La Monica, senior manager, Business Cycle Indicators, at The Conference Board, in the press release.