Private-sector employment gains and a strong rebound in the tourism and construction industries are boosting economic growth in the Savannah, Georgia, metropolitan area. That's according to the latest Coastal Empire Economic Monitor, released June 8 by the Armstrong Atlantic State University's Center for Regional Analysis.

The Savannah Morning News has the story (see: "Monitor: Our economy best it's been in six years," by Mary Carr Mayle). "In what he called the strongest complete report in six years, Armstrong State University economist Mike Toma said the Savannah-area economy continued to grow at a rapid rate in the first quarter of 2014, proof that the previous quarter's strong growth was no fluke," the Morning News reports. "Savannah's economy has been strengthening and should continue to do so for the rest of the year," said Toma, Fuller E. Callaway professor of Economics and the director of Armstrong's Center for Regional Analysis.

The Economic Monitor report is available online here (see: "Strong Growth, Surge in Forecasting Index"). "The seasonally adjusted number of new residential homes permitted for construction was 337, a 1% increase from the blistering pace of the third quarter," the report notes — although this may have been influenced downward by a local regulatory change that prompted some builders to apply last year for permits for this year's building season. Be that as it may, the report says, "As compared to year-ago data, the number of permits issued is 30% higher. Further, the average value of a building permit issued for a single family home increased 20%, rising to $206,500 from about $173,500."

That rise in permit value, by the way, mirrors a trend in the national numbers. On average, new American homes are bigger and costlier than ever this year, as the industry continues a somewhat faltering and feeble rebound. CNN/Money has this report (see: "America's homes are bigger than ever," by Les Christie). Nationwide, an average new home this year checks in at 2,598 square feet, the report says. But this mainly reflects the outsized influence of upper-end buyers in the production mix. "The rich have gotten richer," the report notes, "and many have used those riches to buy even bigger places." Meantime, first-time buyers—the people who tend to buy more modestly priced and smaller units—make up a much smaller slice of the home-buying pie. "Many young buyers are having trouble getting mortgages or are heavily in debt with student loans," CNN/Money explains. "As a result, the market for smaller homes, of 1,400 square-feet and less, has shrunk to just 4% of homes built. That compares with 9% in 2005."