The index measuring San Diego’s economy increased nearly 1 percent in February following smaller gains in January and December.

February’s 0.9 percent rise in the USD Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate’s Index of Leading Economic Indicators for San Diego County was driven mainly by sharp increases in the number of new building permits, fewer initial claims for unemployment insurance, local stock prices rising, and an improved outlook for the national economy.

The only negative component of the six measures in February was local consumer confidence, which declined by nearly a half percent, according to the USD report.

Alan Gin, the USD economics professor who compiles the data, said the local economy is off to a strong start so far this year, with a 12-month job growth of about 30,000 for the first two months of 2013.

Housing is a major contributor to the uptick, as improved job growth and low interest rates fueled higher sales and enhanced housing prices, Gin said. That’s led to increased construction employment, as well as an enhanced wealth effect from higher home prices which may help consumer spending, he said.

Gin expects the region to generate another 25,000 to 30,000 new jobs this year, following last year’s net gain of about 25,000 jobs. Tempering this optimism is the negative impact from sequester cuts both to the defense and research sectors of the local economy, he said.

— SDBJ Staff Report