What's Your City's Recovery Ranking?

Most cities have recovered lost output, but not jobs or housing health.

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The nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas all grew during the fourth quarter of 2010, and most had regained all of their recession production losses by the end of the year, according to an ongoing study by the Brookings Institution, the Washington-based research and policy think tank. However, Brookings found no such recovery in employment or housing, as home prices fell in 98 of the 100 largest markets between the last quarters of 2009 and 2010.

"It looks like economic output is recovering fairly well and the job market is recovering at a glacial pace," says Howard Wial, co-author of the latest Brookings report on its MetroMonitor project. "What we're seeing, at the metro level at least, does suggest substantial productivity gains. This often happens in the early stages of a recovery." Even though business sales are increasing, employers are reluctant to make full-time hires and tend to meet rising demand by adding overtime work for existing full-time employees and adding part-time workers.

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The 100 areas that Brookings tracks recorded a 6.3 percent decline in private-sector jobs from their high marks through the end of last year, compared with a 1.4 percent drop in local government jobs and a small 0.1 percent dip in state employment. Recent budget cuts, however, indicate that public-sector employment will fall further, while private-sector jobs are on the upswing.

"The strength of a metropolitan area's recovery has little to do with how hard it was hit during the recession," Brookings says in its report. Wial said he was surprised, for example, that some cities with the strongest recoveries had suffered severe housing losses and foreclosure problems, including Coral Gables, Fla., Bakersfield, Calif., and Las Vegas, Nev.

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Overall, Brookings found that only four of the 100 markets—Austin, San Antonio, McAllen, Texas, and Hartford, Conn.—posted relatively strong economic performances during both the recession and the ensuing recovery. And only two—Detroit and Palm Bay, Fla.—were among the weakest performers in both time periods. Hardest-hit communities continue to be those with boom-to-bust swings in housing prices, and areas that depended on the auto industry.

Brookings ranks metropolitan economic performance on four measures: (1) percent change in employment, (2) percentage point change in unemployment rate, (3) percent change in an area's gross metropolitan product (GMP), and (4) percent change in housing prices. From the time the recession began through the end of last year, here are the top and bottom 20 metropolitan areas:

Overall Performance, Top 20

Albuquerque, N.M.

Augusta-Richmond County, Ga.-S.C.

Austin-Round Rock, Texas

Baltimore-Towson, Md.

Columbia, S.C.

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas

Denver-Aurora, Colo.

El Paso, Texas

Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Conn.

Jackson, Miss.

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Ark.

Louisville-Jefferson County, Ky.-Ind.

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas

Oklahoma City

Pittsburgh

Raleigh-Cary, N.C.

Salt Lake City

San Antonio

Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.V.

Bottom 20

Bakersfield, Calif.

Boise City-Nampa, Idaho

Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.

Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, Ill.-Ind.-Wis.

Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, Ohio

Dayton, Ohio

Detroit-Warren-Livonia, Mich.

Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Mich.

Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev.

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla.

New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, La.

North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, Fla.

Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif.

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla.

Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, Ariz.

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.

Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, Calif.

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla.

Toledo, Ohio

Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa.

From the time each area's recovery began, here are the top and bottom recovery performers through the end of 2010:

Recovery Performance, Top 20 Metro Areas

Austin-Round Rock, Texas

Bakersfield, Calif.

Baltimore-Towson, Md.

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.

Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.

Colorado Springs, Colo.

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas

Denver-Aurora, Colo.

Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Conn.

Honolulu

Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Ark.

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas

Modesto, Calif.

New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, La.

Ogden-Clearfield, Utah

Rochester, N.Y.

Salt Lake City

San Antonio

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.V.

Bottom 20 Metro Areas

Akron, Ohio

Albany-Schenectady-Troy, N.Y.

Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, Pa.-N.J.

Birmingham-Hoover, Ala.

Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, N.C.-S.C.

Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, Ill.-Ind.-Wisc.

Dayton, Ohio

Detroit-Warren-Livonia, Mich.

Greensboro-High Point, N.C.

Greenville-Mauldin-Easley, S.C.

Memphis, Tenn.-Miss.-Ark.

Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wisc.

New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa.

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla.

Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pa.-N.J.-Del.-Md.

Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Ore.-Wash.

Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, R.I.-Mass.

Springfield, Mass.

Syracuse, N.Y.

Worcester, Mass.

Twitter: @PhilMoeller