A relative boom in Baton Rouge
"No place has been untouched by this recession. This is a change from previous recessions," said Alan Berube, a senior fellow and research director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. "But there's a big difference in losing one-tenth of a percentage and losing 15% of jobs."
Baton Rouge, which was ranked No. 6, "grew jobs every month until August 2009 and in August it only lost nine-tenths of a percent, compared to 5.1% nationally," said Lauren C. Scott, professor emeritus of economics at Louisiana State University.
Scott said $5.1 billion of construction projects have been announced or are under construction in the Baton Rouge metro, including a new plant for French chemical company SNF and the expansion of an ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM - News) chemical plant.
"One nice thing after another thing happened that has countered what's happening in the rest of the country," Scott said.
Ernie Goss, an economist at Creighton University in Omaha, who studies much of the nation's energy and farm belts, said the strong dollar early this year hurt farm exports. "But the dollar has now weakened significantly and that will be good for the farm sector and energy commodities," Goss said. "I think 2010 is going to be much better than 2009. But we are still not going to have a lot of job gains.
A 22-year unemployment high in Texas
Although the metros in the ranking are strong by relative standards, their unemployment rates in many cases are now peaking because they entered the recession late. Texas, which had 5 metros in our top 10, including No. 1 San Antonio, is a good example.
The unemployment rate in Texas hit 8.2% in September, rising above 8% for the first time in 22 years. But that's a very low unemployment rate, compared to the national rate of 9.8% or to Nevada's 13.3% rate.
Texas is unlikely to face a prolonged downturn, said Terry Clower, an economist at the University of North Texas. The state's affordable cost of living make it attractive to new residents and corporations, the largest of which tend to be based near Houston and Dallas.
"It's perceived as a low-cost place to do business," Clower said. "Because housing is affordable, the wage rates reflect that."
Marisa Di Natale, a director at Moody's Economy.com, said late arrivals to the recession will generally face mild downturns.
These metros "haven't had a big erosion in housing wealth, which has kept consumer spending stronger than it would otherwise be," Di Natale
Employment and Economic Muscle
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke might think the country is out of the recession, but unemployment is rising from Connecticut to California and banks
are taking possession of a growing share of American homes. But some metros across the nation have managed to stay out of the recession's path and could
now be poised for recovery. Using data and analysis from the Brookings Institution's new MetroMonitor study, BusinessWeek.com ranked the nation's top
40 economies based on job growth, employment, economic growth, and home prices. And Texas seems to be the clear winner with San Antonio at the top of the list
and five metros in the top 10. To see which metros made the list, read on.
The Brookings Institution ranked the 100 largest metros by averaging the ranks for four key indicators: employment change, unemployment change, gross metropolitan product, and home price change. Employment was measured by the change from the peak quarter for each metro to the second quarter of 2009. The peak was the quarter in which the metro had the most jobs during the past five years. Unemployment was ranked by measuring the percentage-point change from the first quarter of 2009 to the second quarter of 2009. Gross metropolitan product was measured from the peak quarter to the second quarter of 2009. And the ranking of home prices compared the second quarter of 2009 to the previous quarter. The employment data were provided by Moody's Economy.com, the unemployment data were collected from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the home price index came from the Federal Housing Finance Agency.