Home sales in Southern California grew between February and March, but remain 5.2% below year-ago levels, data firm DataQuick said Wednesday. The La Jolla, Calif.-based research firm said home sales grew 35.1% on a month-to-month basis in March, but signs in the housing market still point to consumer resistance as the job market remains subdued. In the counties of Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange, DataQuick reported 19,412 new and resale home sales in March, up from 14,369 in February. Even still, that number is trending below the 20,746 sales recorded during the same period last year. "Sales always increase from February to March,"DataQuick said in a release. "Last month’s sales count was 21.4% below the 24,706 average for all the months of March since 1988. Sales so far this year are 20% below the norm. During the last half of 2010 sales were 25% to 30% below average" Sales of newly built homes fell to their lowest levels in 23 years last month. Foreclosures are going to continue to plague the market "for a good while," DataQuick concluded.  However, the research firm sees "mortgage availability" as the key to unleashing a buyer's market. Foreclosure resales made up 36.4% of all resales last month, down from 37% a month earlier. "If a well-crafted home loan program comes down the pike, it’s going to make some lending institution the dominant player, at least for a while,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president. In March, adjustable-rate mortgages accounted for 7.8% of last month's purchase loans, while jumbo loans -- or loans at the limit of $417,000 -- made up 15.9% of March's purchase lending, compared to 15.6% in February. Cash purchases made up 30.5% of March home sales, with buyers paying a median of $205,250. Government-insured FHA loans represented 32% of all mortgages used to purchase homes last month. Write to Kerri Panchuk.