The housing market’s recovery has been gradual and, at times, volatile. But, according to the National Association of Home Builders Leading Markets Index, the number of local markets that are at or above 90 percent of their previous normal level has hit 157, which is nearly half of the 360 metro areas included in the index. The index – which compares each market’s permit, price, and employment levels to their last normal period – also shows a full 68 percent of markets have improved from last year. Most of those improvements have come due to a significant improvement in employment conditions across the country. “The markets are continuing to make gains,” said NAHB chairman Tom Woods. “A strengthening economy and low interest rates should spur the release of pent-up demand and keep housing moving forward this year.” Some of the markets that have experienced the most improvement include Baton Rouge, Austin, Honolulu, Houston, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Nashville. Among smaller markets, metros in Kansas, North Dakota, and Texas lead the list. More here.