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US workloads continue to fall

Economists have warned that the fall in design workloads in the US should be taken seriously

The American Institute of Architects’ closely-watched billings index posted a score of 48.5 for December, where anything below 50 represents a fall from the previous month.

It was the second consecutive month of falling workloads – the first time this has happened in the country since mid-2012.

The dip follows six months of rising workloads and a 15-month period where billings levels only failed to rise once.

AIA chief economist Kermit Baker said: ‘What we thought last month was an isolated dip now bears closer examination to see what is causing the slowdown in demand for architectural services.

‘It is possible that some of this can be attributed to the anxiety in the marketplace caused by the shutdown of the federal government, but it will be important to see how business conditions fare through the first quarter of the new year when we no longer have end-of-year issues to deal with.’

The Northeast region suffered the most, with a reading of 42.8 suggesting workloads had plummeted in December.

The Midwest posted 47.0 on the index, while the South and West saw small levels of growth from the previous month with 51.2 and 53.2 respectively.

Institutional work was the hardest hit, at 44.8 on the index, with commercial and industrial work at 47.1, mixed practice 51.0 and multi-family residential 53.8.

There was some hope for a quick recovery with the new projects inquiry index reading 59.2.

Chicago-born Stephan Reinke, who runs Stephan Reinke Architects in London, told AJ the overall picture was still positive in the US.

‘Our view is that the longer term graph continues to rise, if gently,’ he said. ‘The recent changes are modest, not dramatic, so we may even see a couple more months of negative statistics.

‘However, unless there is a significant crisis event sleeping under the economic surface, we see the 2014/15 trend line moving upwards.’

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