The number of housing markets that have returned to their last normal levels of economy activity remained flat in August, marking a stall as the recovery comes down to a slower pace.
Of the nearly 350 metro markets survey in the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/First American Leading Markets Index (LMI), the group reports 56 have returned to or exceeded their previous normal levels of economic and housing activity based on housing permits, home prices, and employment.
While unchanged from NAHB's June survey, the latest index reflects a yearly increase of seven markets. Meanwhile, 78 percent of markets have seen improvement over the last year.
As of the August survey, the association estimates that housing and economic activity are running at 89 percent of their normal levels.
"Things are gradually improving," said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly. "As the job market grows, we expect to see a steady release of pent up demand of home buyers."
Of the three index components, permit issuance on new single-family homebuilding is lagging behind the other two, having climbed to only 43 percent of normal levels, NAHB reported.
Meanwhile, employment is outpacing the other two, thanks to the ongoing streak of national job gains above 200,000 each month.
Out of all major metros surveyed, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, remains on top, leading all others with an index of 1.39—or 39 percent better than its last normal market. Other major metros leading the list include Honolulu, Oklahoma City, Houston, and Austin.
Looking only at smaller markets, both Odessa and Midland, Texas, continue to reign, boasting index scores of 2.0 or better. Also leading are Bismarck, North Dakota; Grand Forks, North Dakota; and Casper, Wyoming.