Only 3 Major U.S. Cities Have Recovered From Recession

Everybody knows the US economy has been struggling since the recession ended in 2009. But just how bad are things? Of the United States’ 76 major metropolitan areas, just three are in economic recovery now, according to a new study by the Brookings Institution.  That may seem terrible, but it’s up from last year, when zero were classified as in recovery. All three cities – Knoxville, Tennessee; Dallas, Texas; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – have strong local service industries as well as banking and finance institutions that cater to certain industries.

All three cities experienced major recessions –  which the report defines as decline in both GDP per capita and employment – and full recoveries, meaning a return to previous peaks by 2012.

“What is different about Dallas is that services are very important — they are servicing growing clients,” said Brookings associate fellow Emilia Istrate.  “This combination drove the growth and helped Dallas come out to full recovery.”

In Knoxville, retailers have brought new business and a stream of new jobs. “We feel very good about how we’re coming out of this recession,” said Mayor Madeline Rogero.  “We see new interest. We see new development that’s occurring. We’re optimistic that this recovery is going to continue.”

The Pittsburgh skyline partly tells the city’s economic story, according to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. A major bank just finished building one skyscraper and started construction on another.  “We employ more people in Pittsburgh than we ever have,” he said.  Pittsburgh built up industries before the recession, mostly universities and healthcare. Then the shale gas boom put its business services in high demand.

Meanwhile the rest of the country is still suffering, with 53 US metro areas in only partial recovery; 18 still in partial recession; and 2 – Albuquerque and Madison — still in full recessions.  However a recent report by IHS indicates that recoveries may be speeding up around the country.  The report predicts more than 75 metropolitan areas will be back to pre-recession employment levels by the end of 2014.