As the American Institute of Architects recently reported, the Architectural Billings Index–the leading economic indicator of construction activity–has now remained in positive territory for the fifth straight month. In addition, construction employment rose in 28 states and the District of Columbia between January 2011 and January 2012, while 20 states lost construction jobs and two held steady—the best net positive showing for state construction employment since 2007, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of Labor Department data. Thirty-five states and D.C. added construction jobs between December 2011 and January, while 13 states had decreases for the month, and two states had no change.

So does all of this positive information and upward trending mean that the recovery of the design and construction industry is finally a reality? And how does this apply to healthcare?

AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA, preaches cautious optimism, noting that while improving conditions are trending, that optimism will likely lead to a greater demand for services. “But that is not across the board, and there are still a number of architecture firms struggling so progress is likely to be measured in inches rather than miles for the next few months,” says Baker.

So while this is all welcome news, it doesn't mean that we are back to business as usual in healthcare design by any means. The Supreme Court is still deliberating on what to do with healthcare reform, and of course November election results could throw everything into a further tailspin, regardless of which party winds up in power.

But if the assertion that Baker made above–that optimism leads to greater demand–is true, perhaps the best move for the healthcare A/E/C community would be to move forward as if it were gospel.