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Tampa Bay's economic recovery looks healthier compared to other metros

Tampa Bay's economy, comparatively speaking, is doing much better these days.

The bay area's economic recovery ranks 30th among the 100 largest metros in the country, with a big drop in its unemployment rate largely responsible for pushing it into the top third.

The news, from a quarterly MetroMonitor analysis by the Brookings Institution, is a far cry from a year ago when Tampa Bay's recovery was among the 20 weakest in the country, held down by posting the third-weakest growth in economic output since hitting its low point here in early 2010.

In surging in the standings, Tampa Bay benefitted from a weaker field, with most cities slowing their rate of recovery between the first quarter and second quarter this year.

The analysis measured the rate of economic recovery, not overall economic strength.

"In the race to recovery, metro areas are running at slow speeds with some tripping along the way," said Alec Friedhoff, a research analyst with Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program who also was lead MetroMonitor developer.

Employment growth softened in the second quarter across the metro areas. The unemployment rate dropped in about half the metros, but still remained above 6 percent in all but 12. Housing continued its tortured path to recovery, with 87 metro housing markets hitting new lows on prices.

The report tracked the recovery of metros from their recessionary low points in four key areas: change in employment; change in unemployment rate; change in the gross metropolitan product (or economic output); and change in housing prices.

Tampa Bay's stronger performance was driven in part by the fact it posted the ninth best recovery in unemployment among all metros, with its jobless rate dropping from a peak of 12.5 percent down to 9 percent as of June.

However, the analysis doesn't take into account that the area's unemployment rate rose to 9.4 percent in July. Moreover, a recent report by state economists indicated much of the recent drop in unemployment may be overstated. About 91 percent of retraction in the state's unemployment rate since January was due to Floridians dropping out of the workforce and not due to job creation, according to the state report.

Among other yardsticks in the MetroMonitor update, Tampa Bay ranked:

• 14th best recovery in housing prices from their low point.

• 26th best in addition of jobs since the beginning of 2010.

• 70th in economic improvement, with its economic output up 4.5 percent from the low reached at the end of 2009.

Like the rest of the metros, a recent slowdown is evident, however. The bay area's economic output rose just 0.2 percent in the latest quarter.

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

Tampa Bay's economic recovery looks healthier compared to other metros 09/18/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 11:36pm]
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