After three flat months, San Diego's Index of Leading Economic Indicators climbed slightly last month, it was announced Tuesday.The 0.3-point uptick was the first climb since July, led by a sharp decrease in the number of initial claims for unemployment insurance, which fell below 20,000 in a month for the first time since September 2008, according to University of San Diego professor Alan Gin. There was also a slight increase in the number of non-farm jobs, he said.The other trend that pushed up the San Diego index was an improvement in the national economy for the fifth straight month, according to Gin, with USD's Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate.He said small national gains should continue into the new year but won't lead to major increases in the number of jobs.There were also slight increases in prices for San Diego stocks and consumer confidence."Most of those increases have been relatively small, indicating that consumers are optimistic, but only cautiously so," Gin said. "It will take significant improvement in the labor market and the unemployment rate before consumer confidence really begins to surge."A sector that continues to be slow is residential construction, he said. The number of permits taken out for residential real estate fell sharply and is on pace for the second-lowest level since 1973, which is how far back his records go, according to Gin.While the gain for the San Diego index was small, the indicators have not fallen in 20 straight months, Gin said.