The economic and housing recovery continues at a slow, but steady pace. For the country as a whole, the NAHB/First American Leading Markets Index (LMI), released today, rose to .93 in the third quarter of 2015, .01 point higher than its level in 2015, and .04 point higher than its level from one year ago, .89. The index uses single-family housing permits, employment and home prices to measure proximity to a normal economic and housing market. The index is calculated for both the entire country and for 364 local markets, metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). A value of 1.0 means the market (or country) is back to the last level of normality.
Nationally, all three components of the LMI contributed to the quarter-over-quarter growth in the nationwide score. Permits rose from .46 to .47, prices increased from 1.35 to 1.37, and employment rose from .96 to .97. Over the year, the permits, prices, and employment components expanded by .04, .07, and .02 respectively. Regionally, 79 of the 364 markets, 21%, have an LMI Score that is greater than or equal to 1.0 and are considered normal, up from 74 in the second quarter of 2015 and 62 last year.
While most markets do not have an Overall LMI Score that is greater than or equal to 1.0, a recovery in one or more components has taken place across a number of MSAs. For example, in 26 markets single-family permits have returned to normal. This is unchanged from the second quarter, but 5 more than last year’s total. The number of markets where house prices are considered normal was also unchanged over the quarter at 345, but it is 6 greater than the 339 markets from one year ago. Meanwhile, the number of MSAs where employment has reached or exceeded normal reached 72, up from 64 markets in the second quarter and from 40 markets one year ago.
Of the 364 MSAs included in the LMI, 56% saw their score increase over the quarter and 69% recorded year-over-year growth. According to the map above, the MSAs with the largest year-over-year increase, those markets where the annual increase in its LMI Score exceeded that of the nation as a whole, were largely located in the West and in the South, and many reside in the former “bubble” states of California, Nevada, Arizona, and Florida. As illustrated by the first map, many of the markets in these states now have an LMI score closer to the middle of the Score distribution, and off the bottom, indicating that the effects of the crisis in these MSAs are disappearing and the recovery in these markets is taking hold.