Brookings: Tampa Bay economy improving but still sluggish

Tampa Bay may no longer be in the economic intensive care ward, but it isn't ready to check out of the hospital yet, according to the fourth quarter snapshot from Brookings Institution.

Brookings has been regularly ranking the economic recovery of the country's 100 largest metro areas using measuring sticks such as job creation, housing price changes and economic output.

A report released Wednesday indicates Tampa Bay has benefited from relatively strong job growth recently "but there's not much progress on the other indicators," report co-author Howard Wial said.

In the past two years, the area's unemployment rate has dropped 1.6 percentage points to 10 percent. This past quarter, its workforce grew a half percentage point, ranking 24th best among the 100 metros.

But in nearly every other category, Tampa Bay ranks not just in the weakest half but typically among the weakest 20 metros. Housing prices are down nearly 48 percent from their peak, far worse than the 26 percent average drop among metros.

Particularly dismal is the region's Gross Metropolitan Product, or the value of goods and services produced. From the lowest point during the recession in early 2010, Tampa Bay's economic output has improved just 1.7 percent, the seventh weakest recovery among metros.

The region's economic output "is still really, really struggling," Wial said. "It suggests you're at an earlier stage of recovery than most other metro areas. It suggest slow wage growth."

The results also mesh with other data indicating many of the new jobs created during the tepid recovery pay less than the jobs that have been lost.

Brookings doesn't rank metros directly, but rather in groups of 20, from strongest to weakest.

Tampa Bay had consistently ranked among the bottom 20 metros during previous MetroMonitor updates in the wake of the recession. This time, it ranks in the cluster of second-weakest 20 metros.

Wial cautioned against drawing many direct comparisons with previous reports, however, saying figures used before are constantly revised.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at jharrington@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8242.

Brookings: Tampa Bay economy improving but still sluggish 03/28/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 9:17pm]

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