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When I wrote about the Icarus-like plunge of star architects in the May 3-May 9 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, the industry had been shrinking for an unprecedented 26 months in a row. Today the American Institute of Architects issued its latest billings index, for April. You can now make that 27 months in a row.
A reading of 50 or above signals overall growth in billings; anything lower means contraction. The latest index, based on a survey of nearly 600 architectural firms, came in at 48.5. The institute nonetheless saw hope. The index was at its highest level since January 2008 and has risen for three months. “It appears that the design and construction industry may be nearing an actual recovery phase,” Kermit Baker, the institute’s chief economist, said in a statement.
Some firms are, indeed, winning new work. Pickard Chilton, for instance, announced recently that the New Haven, Conn.-based partnership has been commissioned to design a world headquarters for Eaton Corp. on a 53-acre site in suburban Cleveland.
Still, being encouragement by the April below-50 figure seems to me something like a parent being relieved that her too-thin child lost only 1.5 pounds last month, instead of 3.9 like the month before. The child is still losing weight.
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