The Wilder View

Brookings on regional economic performance

Brookings has developed a really cool MetroMonitor that will track the recession and recovery (likely a year after the recession ends) across America’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. Here are some of their findings to date:

A few metropolitan areas are beginning to showing signs of economic recovery, although none has completely recovered. McAllen is the only metropolitan area that saw growth in both employment and output during the first quarter of 2009. Employment also rose in New Haven and Baton Rouge, while output also increased in Seattle, Austin, Virginia Beach, Washington, Richmond, San Jose, and Riverside. Still, none of these metro areas has yet returned to its pre-recession levels of employment or output.

There are two distinct “Manufacturing Belts.” Most metro areas in Michigan and Ohio have experienced employment and output declines exceeding national averages. Several, including Dayton, Detroit, and Youngstown, began losing jobs two to three years earlier than the U.S. economy as a whole. At the same time, job losses have been more modest, and housing prices have risen slightly, in many Northeastern metro areas that have less auto-oriented manufacturing sectors (e.g., aerospace in Hartford, photonics in Rochester, plastics in Scranton).

There are also two distinct Sun Belts. Yet parts of the Southwest and Deep South—including metro areas in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana—have performed relatively well, experiencing less severe job losses, relatively large wage gains, and modest home price increases. Specializations in energy and government, large amounts of federal hurricane recovery funding for the Gulf Coast, and smaller increases in housing prices during the early and mid-2000s may all help to account for their better performance.

Concentrations of jobs in “eds and meds” and government seem to have shielded some metro areas from dramatic job losses. Compared to a national employment decline of 3.7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 through the first quarter of 2009, metro areas with specializations in education and health care saw employment drop by an average of only 2.0 percent, and those specialized in government/military employment saw average job losses of 1.3 percent.

Tourism-specialized metro areas suffered relatively large employment declines.

A few banking centers have been hard hit, but metro areas specializing in insurance have suffered less.

38 of the top 100 metro areas avoided declines in home prices over the past year, even as prices nationwide dipped 6 percent.


Note: Home values are calculated using the FHFA house price index, which includes a larger set of metropolitan areas than does the S&P Cashe-Shiller index.

Originally published at News N Economics and reproduced here with the author’s permission.

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