The AIA’s monthly Architecture Billings Index (ABI) came in at a score of 54.7 in January—the highest score seen during the first month of the year since 2007. The ABI is a leading economic indicator of construction activity in the U.S., and reflects a nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending nationally, regionally, and by project type. A score above 50, as seen this month, represents an increase in billings from the previous month, while a score below 50 represents a contraction.

Healthy demand for design services continued in January, with national billings reaching a score of 54.7. January’s reading is 1.9 points higher than December’s score of 52.8. However, new project inquiries—considered to be the most reliable indicator of future billings—decreased 0.9 points in January to a score of 61.1, indicating that billings could ease in February.

“Healthy conditions continue across all sectors and regions except the Northeast, where firm billings softened for the second consecutive month,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, in a press release. “With strong billings and healthy growth in new projects to start the year, firms remain generally optimistic about business conditions for the next several months.”