Builder executives speaking at Hanley Wood’s Housing Leadership Summit in Chicago earlier this month pronounced that the housing slump has officially hit bottom. Now one more economic indicator is suggesting this may be true. 

Reaching its highest mark in more than two years, the American Institute of Architects’ Architecture Billings Index clocked in at 48.5 this month, up from a score of 46.1 last month. The rating marks the third straight month of positive gains for the index, a “work on the boards” survey of AIA members that reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. 

Although this latest score confirms a persistent lag in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings, and the score is still below the halfway mark), it is the highest score since January 2008 when revenue at architecture firms plummeted into recession.

Even sunnier news: The new projects inquiry index was a healthy 59.6.

“It appears that the design and construction industry may be nearing an actual recovery phase,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “The economic landscape is improving, although not across the board, but doing so at a gradual pace. It is quite possible that we will finally see positive business conditions in the foreseeable future.”

In a regional breakdown of the index, architecture firms in the Northeast fared best with a score of 51, followed by the Midwest (49.2) South (46.5), and West (44.7).

Jenny Sullivan is a senior editor covering architecture and design for BUILDER.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Chicago, IL.