A local economic index came in unchanged again in October, leaving the gauge essentially flat during the last eight months and prompting new questions about which direction San Diego County’s economy may be headed in the near term.

Positive components outnumbered negative ones in the latest update of the USD Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate’s Index of Leading Economic Indicators. Consumer confidence registered the biggest gain, while prices of local stocks declined the greatest.

Comments accompanying an index summary released Nov. 30 suggested local job growth looks positive in 2017 “but not enough to push the local unemployment rate much lower than the current level.” The rate was a seasonally adjusted 4.8 percent in October, slightly better than the 5.1 percent reported a year earlier, according to the state Employment Development Department.

“Whether the next major move is a surge to the upside or a plunge downward is uncertain at this point,” the commentary stated. “The recovery, both nationally and locally, has gone on for a long time and may be getting long in the tooth.”

The commentary went on to say a likely rate increase by the Federal Reserve and weakness in the global economy pose risks that may be moderated domestically by low gasoline prices.

New housing construction permits were up in the region, according to the index, which noted the figure was driven by multi-family residences that provide less economic benefit than single-family homes but which nevertheless help alleviate the housing affordability challenges plaguing local employers.

The index showed initial claims for employment posted a slight improvement in October, but that help-wanted advertising continued to be weak.

Consumer confidence was up for the fourth consecutive month, while local stock prices closed the month lower, snapping a four-month string of increases. The national Index of Leading Economic Indicators advanced in October, but not by much.

The index rose dramatically during late 2014 and early 2015 but has changed relatively little in 2016. During the 12 months ending in October it increased by about one-third of 1 percent.