April was a milestone for the area housing market. Across the eight-county metro area, 444 permits for new single-family homes were issued – the best month in five years.

April was a milestone for the area housing market. Across the eight-county metro area, 444 permits for new single-family homes were issued – the best month in five years.

The supply of homes on the market has been shrinking for some time, and homebuilders are getting more active, says the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City. For the first four months of the year, all eight counties have seen increases in single-family permits compared with 2012. Eastern Jackson County is up 27.9 percent, led by Blue Springs, with 45 so far this year, compared with 19 during the same period in 2012. Independence jumped from 20 to 22, Grain Valley fell from 11 to one, and Lee’s Summit rose from 66 to 85.

Kansas City, Olathe, Overland Park and Lee’s Summit generally lead the top 10 in the area – they are one through four so far in 2013 – and Independence and Blue Springs tend to make the list from time to time. At the moment, Blue Springs is sitting at No. 10.

The Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors and Heartland Multiple Listing Service say the supply of existing homes on the market was five and a half months worth – almost two fewer months worth than a year ago. Existing home sales accounted for 91.5 percent of 2,447 homes sold across the nine counties the groups survey, but at some point the sales of existing homes create demand for new homes.

The average price of an existing home sold in April was $155,468, up 4 percent from a year ago. In Jackson County, the average was $119,367, up 11.6 percent.

New-home prices in Jackson County jumped to an average of $349,985 in April, up 25.2 percent in a year. That’s slightly higher than the metro average of $334,060, up 6 percent from April 2012.

Energy efficiency

The Missouri Sierra Club wants KCP&L to invest more in energy efficiency, saying it hasn’t yet offered comprehensive programs to all customers. It delivered petitions to the Missouri Public Service Commission on Tuesday.

Missouri has a four-year-old law, the Missouri Energy Efficiency Investment Act, that encourages utilities to make such investments. The idea is that it’s cheaper to save energy with investments in such things as insulation and better lightbulbs – to the benefit of both KCP&L and its customers – than it is to burn more coal. And coal, of course, also is a particularly dirty pollutant. Such investments also hold down rates and are a step toward economic sustainability, advocates argue.

More finding work

One more dose of local math: The 15-county Kansas City area had an unemployment rate of 6.1 percent unemployment rate in April, a full percentage point lower than in February.

The area has a workforce of a little more than 1 million. Of those, 976,050 had jobs in April, and 63,051 were looking for work.

That’s about where things stood a year ago. In April 2012, 976,068 people had jobs, and 64,212 people were out of work, a rate of 6.2 percent. The unemployment rate had ranged from 6.1 percent to 7.4 percent since October 2011. It was above 8 percent for much of 2009, 2010 and 2011.

In Blue Springs, the jobless rate in April was 5.4 percent, down from 6.2 percent at the beginning of the year. Independence is down to 6.5 percent, down a full percentage point since January. Lee’s Summit in April was down to 4.7 percent, compared with 5.5 percent in January.

Dangerous work

One more KCP&L note: The utility last week held its annual employee memorial service, honoring those who have died in the line of duty. The event, held each year since 2004, is planned along with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The ceremony included the reading of several names, musical tributes and a wreath-laying by KCP&L’s own color guard.

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business editor. Reach him at 816-350-6313 or jeff.fox@examiner.net. Follow him on Twitter @FoxEJC.