The index, compiled by Professor Alan Gin, dropped 0.2 percent last month due to less advertising for jobs and lower consumer confidence. The index climbed 0.4 percent in November, following a decline of the same amount in October, Gin said.
“Despite the USD Index falling for two of the last three months, the outlook for the local economy remains positive,” Gin said. “Economists usually look for three consecutive changes in a leading index in the opposite direction as a signal of a turning point in the economy, and that hasn’t happened yet.”
He said the region gained 23,000 jobs last year and is projected to add 25,000 positions in 2014. If the prediction comes true, the local unemployment rate would edge down to under 6 percent, he said.
According to Gin, the home construction industry remains strong, with the number of residential building permits issued in the region up 46 percent over last year, to its highest level since 2006. Most of that gain was in multifamily complexes.
Nearly 2,600 permits were issued for single-family houses in 2013, a gain of 17 percent, Gin said. But the total pales compared to the more than 9,000 permits issued annually between 1998 and 2004, he said.
Gin said the number of initial claims for unemployment insurance and the amount of help-wanted advertising declined sharply near the end of last year, while consumer confidence dipped because of political turmoil over the government shutdown, extension of the debt ceiling and rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
In December, the index stood at 128.1, a gain of 4.9 percent for the year.