More Americans signed contracts to purchase homes in May, as pending sales climbed to their highest level in more than nine years.

The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 0.9 percent to 112.6 last month. The index has increased 10.4 percent over the past 12 months, putting it just below the April 2006 level — which was more than a year before the housing bust triggered the Great Recession.

The steady job growth coupled with low but rising mortgage rates have fueled the purchases. Pending sales increased in the Northeast and West last month, while slipping in the Midwest and South.

Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases. A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a contract and a completed sale.