WASHINGTON — Five years after the housing bust, the US economy is showing signs of finally bottoming out.
Americans are on the move again after putting their lives on hold and staying put. More young adults are leaving their parents’ homes to take a chance with college or the job market, while once-sharp declines in births are leveling off and poverty is slowing.
Even the stagnant housing market, still weak, is showing improvement as sales and construction begin to climb.
New 2011 census figures offer glimmers of hope in an economic recovery that technically began in mid-2009. The annual survey, supplemented with unpublished government figures as of March 2012, covers a year in which unemployment fell modestly from 9.6 percent to 8.9 percent.
Not all is well. The jobless rate remains high at 8.1 percent. While housing sales have more recently gained, home ownership last year dropped for a fifth straight year to 64.6 percent, the lowest in more than a decade, due to stringent financing rules and a shift to renting.
A fresh set of current economic data released Thursday also remained mixed. The Conference Board’s index of leading indicators, designed to forecast future economic activity, dipped 0.1 percent in August after rising 0.5 percent in July and dropping 0.5 percent in June. And the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell only slightly last week.
Taken as a whole, however, analysts say the census data, which track changing patterns in everyday life, provide the latest evidence of a stabilizing US economy. Coming after the devastating housing bust in 2006, such a leveling off would mark an end to the longest and most pernicious economic decline since World War II.
‘‘We may be seeing the beginning of the American family’s recovery from the Great Recession,’’ said Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University. He pointed in particular to the upswing in mobility and to young men moving out of their parents’ homes, both signs that more young adults were testing out job prospects.
Richard Freeman, an economist at Harvard University, said the data point to a fragile recovery, with the economy still at risk of falling back into recession, depending in part on who is president and whether Congress averts a fiscal cliff of deep government spending cuts and higher taxes in January.
The census figures also show slowing growth in the foreign-born population, which increased to 40.4 million, or 13 percent of the US population.
As a whole, Americans were slowly finding ways to get back on the move. About 12 percent of the nation’s population, or 36.5 million, moved to a new home, up from a record low of 11.6 percent in 2011.