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US construction booms as EU falls

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The huge contrast in fortunes between the US and EU built environment sectors has been exposed this week

A poll of firms owned by members of the American Institute of Architects revealed a seventh successive month of growing workloads across the Atlantic.

The AIA Architecture Billings Index read 54.9 for February 2013 – the fastest rate of design work growth in the US since the global downturn begun.

Meanwhile data from EU statistical office Eurostat showed that construction output across the union had reached its lowest point for an incredible 16 years.

Seasonally adjusted production fell by 1.3 per cent in January 2013, giving it an index reading of 91.93 – the lowest since January 1997.

In the US, the North-east led the way with a reading of 56.7 for billings in February. It was followed by the Midwest and West both at 54.7, and the South at 52.7.

Multi-family residential work was the best sector to be in, with a reading of 60.9, followed by mixed-practice at 56.9, commercial and industrial at 53.3 and institutional at 50.7.

All regions and sectors were above 50, meaning they had seen growth from the previous month. New project inquiries hit 64.8 – their highest mark since January 2007. 

‘Conditions have been strengthening in all regions and construction sectors for the last several months,’ said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker. 

‘Still, we also continue to hear a mix of business conditions in the marketplace as this hesitant recovery continues to unfold.’

For most in the EU, even a hesitant recovery seems a long way off. However, the picture is changeable by country.

Poland (5.3 per cent), Bulgaria (3.7 per cent), Germany (3.0 per cent) and Portugal (1.2 per cent) saw growth in January.

But decreases in value were more widespread. Slovenia saw a 7.4 per cent drop in output, Sweden 5.1 per cent, the Czech Republic 4.4 per cent and France 4.0 per cent.

And all member states for which data was available had smaller construction sectors in January 2013 than the same month a year earlier.

Slovenia and Portugal both saw their markets drop by more than a fifth in those 12 months.

UK output dropped for the third month in succession.

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