After enduring what has seemed like an endless string of dismal numbers reports, the housing industry is about to get some good news. Today, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) launched the NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI), dedicated entirely to tracking metropolitan areas that have consistently shown signs of improvement.

To make the list, a metro area must have shown at least six months of improvement from its trough in three areas the NAHB sees as key to determining the pulse of the housing market: housing permits, employment, and home prices.

To be released monthly, the index will draw its data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for employment growth numbers, house price appreciation data from Freddie Mac, and single-family permit numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.

"Housing conditions are local and do not always reflect the national picture," said Bob Nielsen, NAHB chairman, in a release today. "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."

This month, 12 metro areas made the cut: Alexandria, La.; Anchorage, Alaska.; Bangor, Maine; Bismarck, N.D.; Casper, Wyo.; Fairbanks, Alaska.; Fayetteville, N.C.; Houma, La.; Midland, Texas; New Orleans; Pittsburgh; and Waco, Texas.

"It’s not surprising that many of the states represented are energy rich areas," observed David Crowe, the NAHB’s chief economist. Still, he points out, "last year at this time, there was not a single market that showed improvement using these criteria."

Claire Easley is a senior editor at Builder.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Alexandria, LA, Anchorage, AK, Bangor, ME, Bismarck, ND, Casper, WY, Fairbanks, AK, Fayetteville, NC, Houma, LA, Midland, TX, New Orleans, LA, Pittsburgh, PA, Waco, TX, Greenville, SC.