NEW YORK - The number of U.S. homes listed for sale fell nearly 3 percent in October compared to September, according to real estate brokerage ZipRealty.

The number of homes listed for sale by the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) fell for the 16th consecutive month in October, Emeryville, California-based ZipRealty reported on Monday.

Less inventory on the market may help equalize what is still a huge imbalance between supply and demand. Stabilization of the hard-hit U.S. housing market is seen as key to an economic recovery in the United States.

The total number of single-family homes and condos listed for sale decreased in October from September by 2.82 percent, bringing the total number of active listings in 27 major U.S. metropolitan markets to 593,794, the company said.

On a year-over-year basis, housing inventories decreased by 28.7 percent, it said.

ZipRealty's Housing Inventory Index for October, compiled from local MLS data, showed that while inventory declined in most markets, the Arizona markets of Phoenix and Tucson had an increase in inventory in October compared to September, with Phoenix up 4 percent and Tucson up 2 percent.

ZipRealty said markets with significant month-over-month inventory declines included Las Vegas, at 5.8 percent; Minneapolis, Minnesota, at 5.3 percent; and Chicago and Seattle, at 5 percent each. Median sale prices continued to decline in each of these markets.

Markets on the West Coast had the largest year-over-year declines in inventory, with Los Angeles down 56.3 percent; San Diego down 55.1 percent; the San Francisco Bay Area down 51.1 percent; and Las Vegas down 50.7 percent, the company said. (Reporting by Julie Haviv; Editing by Leslie Adler)