WACO - A healthy holiday shopping season and record year-end home sales spurred gains in the Greater Waco economy.
The Greater Waco Economic Index grew to 117.2 in December. That figure is up from 116.5 in November and a significant jump from 111.9 in December 2013, according to a report released by Amarillo-based economist Karr Ingham.
December sales tax receipts for the region rose by 7.7 percent compared to December 2013, with 4Q 2014 totals up by 7.3 percent over that period last year.
Overall inflation-adjusted spending for 2014 increased by 5.6 percent from the previous year, signaling a boost in consumer shopping habits.
The Greater Waco area recorded 211 home sales in December, up by 36 percent from December 2013 and surpassing the record of 195 set in December 2006.
A record 592 homes were sold in 4Q 2014, up 21 percent from the same period in 2013, while the 2,493 homes sold in 2014 is the second-highest annual total behind the record 2,526 homes sold in 2006.
Automobile purchases also rose in December, with sales up 25 percent compared to December 2013. Sales increased by 14.2 percent in 4Q 2014, while overall spending on vehicle purchases climbed 11.3 percent in 2014 over the previous year.
The unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent for December, the first time it has been below 4 percent since 2006.
Overall, construction permit valuations were down by about 9 percent from last year to $478.8 million. However, Ingham noted that 2013 was a record year for construction, including a $260 million building permit for McLane Stadium.