Recent economic reports point to a national economic recovery that is moving in the right direction, albeit slowly. The unemployment rate continues to edge down, housing prices are recovering, and GDP growth has been relatively strong. That modest aggregate progress belied tremendous variation in the rate of recovery across the nation's major metropolitan economies through the third quarter of 2012.

This edition of the Metro Monitor finds that from July to September of this year, employment growth across the 100 largest U.S. metro areas remained steady, but was slower than during the relatively strong months of January to March. Meanwhile growth in output accelerated across the 100 largest metro areas, matching the rate from the first quarter. Unemployment rates continued to fall in more than half (65) of all large metropolitan areas, but remained above 6 percent in all but 14 of these places. Home prices reversed course in most large metro areas, posting gains after two consecutive quarters of losses that had carried most places to new lows.

Regionally, however, progress was much more varied. The overall pace of economic recovery was strong in a handful of areas including Texas, where the recession was less severe and oil and gas have boomed; in western Florida and parts of California and the Intermountain West where the housing and labor markets are rebounding; in some Midwestern manufacturing centers like Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Toledo; and in the Pacific Northwest. By contrast, the recovery has proceeded more slowly in the Northeast where many metro areas had relatively minor recessions when compared with faster-recovering markets. As a result, they are closer to pre-recession levels of jobs, output, and home prices than many harder hit places.

  • Unemployment decreased by 5.2 percentage points since the third quarter of 2009, the second-largest reduction nationally in percentage terms. 
  • Employment growth ranks 17th overall, rising 5 percent since the third quarter of 2009. 
  • Economic output growth ranks 20th, rising 9.6 percent since the third quarter of 2009. 
  • Housing prices rose 1.9 percent since the second quarter of 2012, 23rd best in the U.S.
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