Tampa Bay's economy has dropped to last compared to those of five rival Sun Belt metro areas.
That's the conclusion of the annual Regional Economic Scorecard released Thursday by the Tampa Bay Partnership, the business marketing arm for the eight-county area from Sarasota to Citrus counties and Pinellas to Polk.
Tampa Bay ranked sixth, down three notches from last year. Raleigh-Durham finished first, followed in order by Dallas, Charlotte, Atlanta and Jacksonville.
The region's 13.1 percent unemployment rate was easily worst among the competitors. Tampa Bay's job losses — 54,133 from the first quarter of 2009 to the same period this year — were surpassed only by Atlanta.
Local workers who kept their jobs had an average salary of $39,978, lowest among the six metro area. Renting an apartment here costs a bigger piece of your paycheck than it would in the other cities and houses cost too much for people earning the average salary.
The economic downturn hit the Southeast United States harder than elsewhere, largely because of its dependence on home building, said Stuart Rogel, chief executive of the Tampa Bay Partnership. "We're lagging behind our neighbors pulling out of this recession," he said.
Still, the survey found things to cheer about.
Tampa Bay colleges awarded more undergraduate degrees per 1,000 workers — 13 — than any area besides Raleigh-Durham. "We're encouraged by the development of USF as it moves from a commuter school to a degree and graduate school," said Mike Vail, president of Sweetbay Supermarket and leader of the economic scorecard.
The area also came in second place for growth in median household income (3.2 percent) and in income from work and other sources (0.15 percent) from the first quarter of 2009 to the first quarter this year.
Tampa Bay improved in more specific areas of this year's scorecard than it declined from 2009. "But the fact is that other economies improved at a greater rate than we did," Vail said.
Any decline in the local economy hasn't cooled corporate interest in moving to Tampa Bay, said Chris Steinocher, the partnership's chief of business development. The group hosted more site visits in the last 10 months than in the previous three years, he said.
Steve Huettel can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3384.