â¿¿ HOUSING. The housing market has been recovering for about a year but still hasn't reached normal levels. Previously occupied homes were sold in February at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 4.98 million. An annual rate of about 5.5 million would be healthy. In the recession, sales had bottomed at 3.8 million. And last month, builders began work on a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 917,000 homes. That's way up from a recession low of 478,000. But it's still far from a healthy annual rate of roughly 1.5 million. Prices have risen nearly 9 percent since bottoming in March 2012, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index, but they remain 29 percent below their pre-recession peak. Still, housing differs from other sectors: Its peaks occurred during a housing bubble that eventually burst. Few expect or even want prices to return to those levels soon. Most economists welcome the steady but modest growth housing has achieved in recent months.
â¿¿ AUTO SALES. Auto sales have nearly returned to where they were. Americans bought cars at an annual rate of nearly 16 million in December 2007. Sales plunged to 10.4 million in 2009. In March this year, the annual sales pace was 15.3 million. The rebound has stimulated hiring and restored the once-bankrupt General Motors and Chrysler to health.
â¿¿ INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT. U.S. factories aren't back to their pre-recession peak of output. But they're getting closer. Production was about 5 percent lower in February than in December 2007, according to the Federal Reserve. The Fed also tracks industrial output, a broader measure that includes mining and utilities. That figure is just 1.8 percent below its pre-recession peak.