October 7, 2011 (Jeff Alan)

The list of improving metropolitan areas expanded this month to 23 according to the NAHB/First American Improving Market Index (IMI), nearly double the 12 areas that made the list last month.

Utilizing data from almost 360 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), the index measures three independently collected or calculated indicators of improving economic health.

The three indicators are employment growth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, house price growth from Freddie Mac and single family housing growth from the Census Bureau. Each MSA must see improvement in all three indicators for at least a six month period after their respective trough before being categorized as improving.

For this month, the 23 MSAs that met the criteria include:

• Alexandria, LA
• Amarillo, TX
• Anchorage, AK
• Bismarck, ND
• Casper, WY
• Fairbanks, AK
• Fayetteville, NC
• Houma, LA
• Iowa City, IA
• Jonesboro, AR
• Kankakee, IL
• McAllen, TX
• Midland, TX
• New Orleans, LA
• Odessa, TX
• Pine Bluff, AR
• Pittsburgh, PA
• Sherman, TX
• Sumter, SC
• Waco, TX
• Waterloo, IA
• Wichita Falls, TX
• Winston-Salem, NC

All 12 metropolitan areas from last month’s list remained on this month’s list except for one, Bangor, Maine, which dropped off due to a decline in local building permits.

“Both the number and geographic diversity of improving housing markets expanded this month, with Iowa, Illinois and South Carolina all newly represented by one entry or more on the list,” said National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chairman Bob Nielsen, a home builder from Reno, Nev. “This is further evidence that, despite the tough conditions that persist in many cities, pockets of improvement are emerging in local housing markets across the country.”

The list is heavily weighted with smaller cities where the predominate economies are driven by agriculture and energy which have been less effected by the economic downturn. Seven of the 23 metropolitan areas are from Texas.

Tags: NAHB, First American, Improving Market Index, employment growth, house price growth, single family housing growth