The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) was out Wednesday with its first ever NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI), a compilation of data from metropolitan areas that have shown improvement for at least six months in three key metrics--housing permits, employment and housing prices. A total of 12 markets, most small, made the list. The index is comprised of the number of markets showing improvement from their respective troughs in the three measured metrics.

The largest improving markets were Pittsburgh and New Orleans, the farthest flung included Fairbanks, Alaska and Bangor, Maine. The three indicators that are analyzed are employment growth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, house price appreciation from Freddie Mac, and single-family housing permit growth from the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to the NAHB's Eye on Housinig blog, "The index is being introduced by NAHB as a counter measure to the drum beat of bad national economic and housing news. An economic recovery is taking place in the US but it is occurring in relatively small metropolitan areas that don't make a national scale."

Among the other markets making the list were Alexandria, La.; Anchorage, Ak.; Bismarck, N.D.; Casper, Wy. ; Fairbanks, AK; Fayetteville, N.C.; Houma, La.; Midland, Tx.; and Waco, Tx.

"Despite the challenging conditions in the national economy and housing sector, there are areas throughout the country where we are seeing pockets of improvement," said Bob Nielsen, chairman of NAHB and a home builder from Reno, Nev. "Housing conditions are local, and do not always reflect the national picture. We created this new index to shine a light on those housing markets across the country that have stabilized and have begun to show signs of recovery."

"By examining key indicators of home prices, employment and housing permits data, we are using a comprehensive, but conservative method in determining which markets are improving," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "Last year at this time, there was not a single market that showed improvement using these criteria, and now we can point to 12 examples of growth."

The list includes:

Market / Permit Trough Date / Growth / PriceTrough Date / Growth / Employment Trough Date / Growth

1 Alexandria, LA -- 11/30/10 -- 4.1% -- 01/31/10 -- 3.2% -- 06/30/10 -- 3.8%

2 Anchorage, AK -- 01/31/09 -- 3.6% -- 01/31/10 -- 0.7% -- 12/31/07 -- 2.5%

3 Bangor, ME -- 09/30/10 -- 2.1% -- 05/31/10 -- 2.8% -- 09/30/10 -- 2.6%

4 Bismarck, ND -- 03/31/09 14.5% -- 02/28/10 -- 5.7% -- 12/31/07 -- 5.3%

5 Casper, WY -- 11/30/10 -- 3.0% -- 01/31/10 -- 1.9% -- 12/31/09 -- 5.3%

6 Fairbanks, AK -- 03/31/09 -- 0.4% -- 01/31/10 -- 2.3% -- 06/30/09 -- 3.2%

7 Fayetteville, NC -- 12/31/08 -- 0.2% -- 01/31/10 -- 1.6% -- 10/31/10 -- 2.5%

8 Houma, LA -- 03/31/10 -- 1.5% -- 10/31/10 -- 1.9% -- 11/30/09 -- 5.0%

9 Midland, TX -- 04/30/09 -- 5.8% -- 01/31/10 -- 3.5% -- 08/31/09 -- 7.1%

10 New Orleans, LA -- 07/31/10 -- 3.2% -- 10/31/10 -- 0.9% -- 12/31/09 -- 2.6%

11 Pittsburgh, PA -- 02/28/09 -- 0.9% -- 01/31/10 -- 4.8% -- 02/28/10 -- 2.9%

12 Waco, TX -- 04/30/09 -- 1.8% -- 01/31/10 -- 2.5% -- 10/31/09 -- 2.3%

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Fairbanks, AK, Bangor, ME.