The U.S. housing market continues to slowly return to pre-recession activity levels, the National Association of Home Builders says.

Its newest survey of housing activity has the NAHB- First American Leading Markets Index at 0.91, which means construction, home prices and employment data is at 91 percent of what is considered a “normal” market. Sixty-eight percent of housing markets have improved in the past year, the association added.

"The strongest gain is employment, where the number of metros that reached or surpassed their norms nearly doubled in a year," said NAHB chief economist David Crowe. "Despite a minor uptick in single-family permits, only 7 percent of the markets are at or above their normal permit activity."

NAHB Chairman Tom Woods, a home builder from Blue Springs, Mo., said the group does not expect anything to sidetrack the recovery.

"The markets are continuing to make gains," Woods said. "A strengthening economy and low interest rates should spur the release of pent-up demand and keep housing moving forward this year."