Tampa Bay's economy finally has momentum on its side.
A year ago, Tampa Bay was pinged for eking out the third-weakest economic recovery from the Great Recession among the country's 100 largest metros.
The latest snapshot released Wednesday by the Brookings Institution is a bit more uplifting. The bay area now ranks 73rd out of 100 metros in its economic growth since the recession's low point in early 2010.
Even more encouraging: With other measures factored in —such as employment growth since the recession's trough, a huge drop in its unemployment rate and recent housing price increases — Tampa Bay cracks into the top 20 for overall recovery.
"Among the Florida metros, Tampa is performing among the best, if not the best," said Alec Friedhoff, a research analyst with Brookings.
But he acknowledges the "best" recovery in Florida is a relative term, given how the housing bust decimated the state.
"A lot of hard-hit areas were late to come out of the recession," he said. "Tampa Bay's pace of recovery is strong now, but it still has among the furthest to go. The hardest hit still have a long way to climb."
In its quarterly Metro Monitor report, Brookings singles out a widespread rise in housing prices as the biggest difference this time around.
Tampa Bay ranked 20th for its change in home prices since the bottom of the recession. Among other factors, it ranked 26th for employment growth and 10th best nationwide for its drop in unemployment since it peaked at 12.5 percent in January 2010.
Though the last measure was the strongest, comparatively speaking, it also may be the least accurate. Florida's drop in unemployment has been largely misleading, state economists have said, because thousands have given up job hunting in frustration and are no longer counted among the jobless.
"You take that (unemployment) ranking with a grain of salt," Friedhoff said.
Jeff Harrington can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8242.