Home Sales Higher in December(Posted: February 6, 2014)
The regional economy continued to improve in December, according to the latest report released Feb. 6 by the Center for Business Research and Economic Development (CBRED) at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith.
The December Monthly Economic Indicators Index report for the Fort Smith Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) revealed improvement in retail sales (for November), auto and home sales, and continued improvement in the regional employment picture.
CBRED Director Dr. Kermit Kuehn of Fort Smith said that this month's report on the regional economy was generally a good one.
According to the report, home sales for the MSA were up nearly 28 percent from a year ago, closing out the year nearly 8 percent higher than 2012 sales.
Residential construction permit activity, however, remained more muted relative to last year with 30 permits pulled for the month. Kuehn noted that while this month's numbers were only slightly lower than a year ago, housing permits were well below the 2005 benchmark of 57 permits for December. Permits for 2013 were down around 5 percent from 2012.
November retail sales were up 4.2 percent over 2012. Year-to-date retail activity for the MSA has remained in positive territory relative to a year ago, up .9 percent thus far for 2013.
"Retail activity in the area steadily improved in the closing months of 2013," Kuehn said, "but activity has been pretty anemic to this point."
Auto sales had another good month with year-over-year sales up nearly 15 percent over December 2012. Sales for 2013 came in nearly 10 percent above 2012 results.
Kuehn noted that new car sales finished the year strong, while used car sales lagged. Unit sales overall were up around 3 percent year-over-year in December.
According to the report, total non-farm employment for the Fort Smith MSA of 120,300 people employed reflected 3,400 more jobs in the MSA than what was reported in December 2012. The unemployment rate dropped to 7.6 percent, a slight decline from a year ago.
Airport passenger traffic rose 2 percent in December. Total traffic closed out the year 2.5 percent below 2012 levels.