Consumer spending, home sales and the unemployment rate in York County showed signs of improvement this year, but local leaders were still left feeling a little let down.

"While nobody expected the economy to go gangbusters in 2012, I found the lackadaisical rate of growth to be disappointing," said Bob Jensenius, executive vice president at the York County Chamber of Commerce.

The local unemployment rate began 2012 at its lowest level in three years at 7.3 percent -- the best showing since the York-Hanover area achieved a 7.1 percent rate in February 2009.

Since then the rate has hovered between 7 percent and 8 percent, recently resting at 7.8 in October, which is the most recent month for which statistics have been released by the state Department of Labor & Industry.

"We've had a number of fits and starts this year," said William Sholly, a state analyst.

The percentage signifying full employment is 5 percent, the likes of which hasn't been seen in York County since 4.9 percent in August 2008. Before the recession, the county logged even lower rates, such as 4.3 percent in 2007.

Housing: Among the bright spots in 2012 was the housing market in York County.

Statistics released earlier this month by the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties show a 10 percent increase in the number of homes sold in York County in 2012. From January through November, 3,531 homes were sold, compared to 3,202 homes sold

during the same time period in 2011.

Though sale prices have dipped between 2 percent and 11 percent this year, depending on location, association president John LeCates and other economists expect home values to increase in 2013.

Other factors: Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy, is also increasing, according to numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent from July to September -- more than double the 1.3 percent rate during the second quarter, according to the report.

Those statistics line up with what local manufacturers are reporting, according to Mike Smeltzer, executive director of the Manufacturers' Association of South Central Pennsylvania.

"Our manufacturers have had strong quarters and flat quarters this year," he said.

Confidence: Smeltzer said there has been "a confidence problem" as manufacturers waited through the passing of the Affordable Care Act and the re-election of President Barack Obama and are now watching the unknowns associated with the fiscal cliff -- a term given to automatic spending cuts and tax increases Jan. 2 unless Congress votes otherwise.

But York County is still poised to round the bend, Jensenius said.

"I still believe York County is well-positioned, with its strategic geographical location, strong work ethic, education system and sense of community, to lead the rest of the region as the economy turns around," he said.

-- Candy Woodall can also be reached at cwoodall@yorkdispatch.com.