The National Association of Home Builders/First American Leading Markets Index (LMI), which tracks about 350 metro markets in the United States, found in April 2014 that 59 metros have returned to or surpassed their last "normal" levels of economic and housing activity.
This is a net gain of 11 metros from the same time last year.
The index’s nationwide score was up slightly to 0.88, from March's 0.87. This reading—calculated from current permit, price, and employment data—means that the nationwide average is running at 88% of normal economic and housing activity.
The report also showed higher scores in the month of April for 28% of metro areas. Scores have been higher for 83% in the past year.
“I think the big news here is that regions outside of the energy states continue to gain ground,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “It’s a promising sign to see areas like Los Angeles and San Jose joining the top ten largest MSAs showing a recovery. We still expect 2014 to be a strong year for housing and to aid in the overall economic recovery. The job market continues to mend and with that we will see a steady release of pent up demand of buyers.”
Baton Rouge, LA, continued to top the list of major metros on the LMI, scoring 1.42, which puts it 42% above its last normal market level.
Other major metros near the top of the list, all with LMI scores exceeding previous norms:
• Oklahoma City
• San Jose, CA
• Harrisburg, PA
“Things are getting slowly better overall,” said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly, a home builder and developer from Wilmington, DE. “And with the housing market now entering the spring buying season, the fact that the nation’s economy is headed in the right direction is a very promising sign.”
“Stronger employment numbers seemed to be the driving force this month—an important factor to the recovery of our economy,” said Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of First American Title Insurance Co., which co-sponsors the LMI report.
Smaller metros showing recovery continue to be dominated by the middle of the country experiencing an energy boom. Odessa and Midland, Texas, have LMI scores of 2.0 or better, indicating their markets are now at double their pre-recession strength.
Also topping the smaller metros list are: Bismarck, ND; Casper, WY; and Grand Forks, ND.
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