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EM's Leading Indicators - August 27, 2021 Update

Aug. 26, 2021
Building permits fall off their torrid pace in July but the year-over-year data is still quite strong.

July’s single-family building permits slide -1.7% but still up +5.5% year-over-year.

Privately‐owned housing units authorized by building permits in July were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,635,000, +2.6% above the revised June rate of 1,594,000 and +6% above the July 2020 rate of 1,542,000. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, single‐family authorizations in July were at a rate of 1,048,000, -1.7% below the revised June figure of 1,066,000 but +5.5% above July 2020.

AIA's Billing Index softens in July but maintains positive growth trend.

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) recorded its sixth consecutive positive month, according to The American Institute of Architects (AIA). The ABI score for July was 54.6 points. While this was down slightly from June’s score of 57.1 points, it still indicates very strong business conditions overall (any score above 50 points indicates an increase in billings from the prior month).

"In prior business cycles, architecture firms generally saw their project work soften quickly and then recover slowly,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, in the press release. “The strength of this recovery is unprecedented. Firm leaders who have leaned into this economic upturn by reinvesting in their firms by hiring staff and upgrading their technology will likely have a better year than those that anticipated a slower recovery.”

Leading indicators point to solid GDP growth through 2022.

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index (LEI) for the U.S. increased by +0.9% in July to 116 points (2016 = 100), following a +0.5% in June and a +1.2% increase in May. “The U.S. LEI registered another large gain in July, with all components contributing positively,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, senior director of economic research at The Conference Board, in the press release. “The Leading Index’s overall upward trend, which started with the end of the pandemic-induced recession in April 2020, is consistent with strong economic growth in the second half of the year. While the Delta variant and/or rising inflation fears could create headwinds for the U.S. economy in the near term, we expect real GDP growth for 2021 to reach +6% year-over-year, before easing to a still robust +4% growth rate for 2022.”