Southern California breaking news and trends

US home sales jump to highest level in 3 years

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A "for sale" sign stands outside an existing home in Pasadena, California. U.S. home sales jumped to the highest level in three years last month. The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that sales rose 5.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million in November. That's up from 4.76 million in October and the highest in three years. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

U.S. sales of previously occupied homes jumped to their highest level in three years last month, bolstered by steady job gains and record-low mortgage rates.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that sales rose 5.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million in November. That's up from 4.76 million in October.

Previously occupied home sales are on track for their best year in five years. November's sales were the highest since November 2009, when a federal tax credit that was soon to expire spurred sales. Excluding that month, last month's sales were the highest since July 2007.

Sales are up 14.5 percent from a year ago, though they remain below the roughly 5.5 million that are consistent with a healthy market.

Job growth and low home-loan rates have helped drive purchases. Prices are also rising, which encourages more potential buyers to come off the sidelines and purchase homes. And more people may put their homes on the market if they feel confident they can sell at a good price.

In addition, the excess supply of homes that built up during the housing bubble has finally thinned out. The number of previously occupied homes available for sale fell to a 10-year low in October. The supply of new homes is also near its lowest level since 1963.

At the same time, more people are looking to buy or rent a home after living with relatives or friends during and immediately after the Great Recession.

These trends have supported a steady recovery in housing. Builder confidence rose in December for a seventh straight month to the highest level in more than 6½ years, according to a survey released Tuesday by the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo.

The pace of home construction slipped in November, but it was still nearly 22 percent higher than a year earlier. Builders are on track this year to start work on the most homes in four years.

Economists note that the increase in building should lead to more construction jobs, though it hasn't yet done so. That could mean more construction hiring is coming.

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Slow and low that is the tempo: CA to add 500K jobs over two years

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Photo by Paul Heaberlin via Flickr Creative Commons

The state's jobless rate, currently at 11.1 percent, is expected to drop to near 10 percent in the next two years with the addition of 500,000 jobs. Experts are calling the economic trend "modest growth."

The annual forecast, released Wednesday by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., shows an improved economic outlook based, in part, on continued budget cutting, notes the L.A. Times.

Los Angeles County seems to be moving, but it's improving at a slower pace than the state as a whole and the rest of the nation as a whole," said the principal author of the report and chief economist at the development company, Robert Kleinhenz.

California has lost 85,500 local, state and federal government jobs, and 300,000 private sector jobs since the recession began in 2007.

Standard & Poor upgraded its outlook on California on Tuesday -- according the financial rating company, the states's ability to repay its debts have jumped from "stable" to to "positive."

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