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 .94 in the fourth quarter of 2015, .01 point higher than its level in the third quarter of 2015, .93, and .04 point higher than its level from one year ago, .90. 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 337 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 4-quarter growth in the nationwide score, .04 point to .94, but only house prices and permits contributed to the quarter-over-quarter increase, .01 point, as the employment component of the LMI was unchanged over the last 3 months. Over the year, the house prices component increased from 1.32 to 1.38, 1.37 to 1.38 over the quarter, the permits portion rose from .44 to .48, .47 to .48 over the quarter, and employment rose from .95 to .96, remaining unchanged over the quarter. Regionally, 117 of the 337 markets, 35%, have an LMI Score that is greater than or equal to 1.0 and are considered normal.
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 of the LMI has taken place in MSAs across the country. At 322, the number of MSAs where house prices have reached normal is the highest of any of the LMI components, however that level has been unchanged over the year. In contrast, the recovery in employment and in permits is smaller but spreading, with the expansion in employment further along. The number of MSAs whose employment component has recovered reached 76 in the fourth quarter of 2015, 11 more than its level in the third quarter and a 73% increase from its level from one year ago, an additional 32 markets. Meanwhile, the number of MSAs whose permits score reached or exceeded 1.0 totaled 41, 8 more than the previous quarter and 17 more than 1 year ago.
* The single-family permits component of the LMI was revised in response to the redesign of the sample used by the US Census Bureau to measure the monthly counts of single-family permits. Metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) where the monthly count of single-family permits were judged to have been significantly altered by the redesigned sample are now excluded from the list of markets followed by the LMI, a total of 27 markets. In addition, the count of single-family permits in 2015 for the remaining MSAs were adjusted for better comparability with previous years.