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January slow for architects

February 19, 2009|Roger Vincent

After a modest uptick in December, the nation's architects reported a drop in business last month to a historic low.

Architectural contracts are a leading indicator of construction activity, with a lag time of about nine months to a year between the awarding of architectural contracts and construction spending.

The American Institute of Architects, the leading trade group for the profession, said Wednesday that its index of "work on the boards" reported by architects fell back in January, meaning that fewer people were hiring architects to design buildings.

The West had the best performance in the country, but the amount of new work was still low.

The shortage of credit has made it tough for developers to build even when there is clear demand for their projects. But recently approved federal spending measures may get the pipeline moving, said Kermit Baker, the institute's chief economist.

"Now that the stimulus bill has passed and includes funding for construction projects . . . business conditions could improve," Baker said. But, he cautioned, "until we can get a clearer sense of credit lines being made available by banks, it will be hard to gauge when a lot of projects that have been put on hold can get back online."

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roger.vincent@latimes.com

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