The South’s surprisingly frigid first two months have produced a cooling of some recent economic trends, but other data indicates the region’s long-term recovery remains on track.
For starters, existing home sales in the South dipped slightly in February, by 0.5 percent, when compared with the same month in 2013, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). However, the median home price in the region jumped by more than 8 percent during the same timeframe.
The dip in home sales, both in the South and across the nation, could be a short-term trend, said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR. “We had ongoing unusual weather disruptions across much of the country last month, with the continuing frictions of constrained inventory, restrictive mortgage lending standards and housing affordability less favorable than a year ago,” he said in a press release. “Some transactions are simply being delayed, so there should be some improvement in the months ahead. With an expected pickup in job creation, home sales should trend up modestly over the course of the year.”
February data on single-family housing starts also produced mixed results. Starts in the region declined by more than 3 percent when compared with one year earlier, but increased by 4.3 percent from the preceding month.
Finally, in a bit of purely good news, the monthly Southeast Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), which evaluates the strength of the manufacturing industry in the area covering Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, measured 56 in February, up more than 5 points from January. A score above 50 means the sector is expanding, while one below the number indicates it’s contracting.
These trends are illuminated in more detail in the three infographics below.