DETROIT, April 30 (UPI) -- Michigan's economy, hard-hit by the nation's recession, has started to show signs it is rebounding, observers say.
The Detroit Free Press reported home sales have risen and the number of first-time filings for unemployment benefits has dropped off considerably.
The newspaper said gains could be attributed largely to the rebound of Detroit automakers.
But even amid signs of recovery, 400,000 Michiganders are unemployed, office buildings remain empty, and many auto factories and dealerships are closed.
The United Way of Southeastern Michigan said calls for help with utilities, food and other basics rose 4 percent in the first quarter, and numerous businesses are struggling.
"The glass is getting fuller, but it's still a lot emptier than we would like," said Charles Ballard, an economist at Michigan State University.
On the upside, business investment projects have risen 70 percent from last year's level.
Housing starts in southeast Michigan were up 47 percent, reaching the highest level in five years but still a fraction of pre-recession levels, Housing Consultants of Clarkston said.
Metro Detroit ranked first in CoreLogic's ranking of most improved housing markets, measured by increases in sales and declines in delinquencies.
Unemployment in the state, which had hit a high of 14.2 percent in August 2009, has declined to 8.5 percent.