Tampa Bay area ranks among nation's worst in economic recovery

Certain communities across the country show signs of slowly pulling out of the recession. Fewer foreclosures in California cities like Stockton and San Diego; a flurry of job creation in Washington, D.C., and parts of Texas; increased economic output in Virginia Beach.

But the Tampa Bay area still lags behind. Far behind.

In fact, this remains one of the weakest metro areas in the country, ranking among the 10 worst in such categories as its rise in unemployment since the recession began, increase in foreclosures and drop in housing prices earlier this year.

And it's not much better in another key ranking. From its era of peak productivity before the recession to the beginning of this year, Tampa Bay's economic output is down 3.3 percent, the 13th worst performance among 100 major metros.

Those are among the statistics included in the quarterly "Metro Monitor" report from the Brookings Institution coming out today.

Its findings: Most major metro areas saw an increase in economic output and, for the first time since the recession began, a majority of metros added jobs in the second quarter of the year, fueled in part by government job creation through the U.S. Census. Some cities even enjoyed an increase in home prices. Yet, with unemployment persistently high, it cautions that the fragile recovery "seems to be running out of steam."

Since the latest "Metro Monitor" focused on economic data in the second quarter, the analysts acknowledged they may have understated current problems by not incorporating "gloomier" third quarter statistics.

Like many economists, the report authors downplayed the odds of slipping into another deep recession while hedging that the recovery is still "very uncertain."

"The good news isn't all that good," said report co-author Howard Wial. "We are nowhere near where we were prior to this recession."

Brookings ranked each region numerically in various categories, but it broke down overall rankings of the 100 metro areas in only five groupings. Florida and California accounted for a combined 13 of the 20 weakest metro areas, with six of them in Florida. The cluster of strongest performers included six cities in Texas (Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, among them).

In many cases, the contrast between recovering and still-struggling metro areas was stark. "Just as the American economy is not the same everywhere," the report said, "neither is the recovery."

Comparisons were drawn from five indicators: employment, unemployment, economic output, home prices and foreclosure rates. The Tampa Bay area ranked in the bottom 15 in all categories. Several other Florida cities fared even worse.

Cape Coral, a national epicenter for the construction boom and bust, ranked worst in the country in the category of dwindling economic output. From pre-recession to the first quarter of 2010, Cape Coral's gross metro product plummeted a stunning 14.8 percent. Other than Detroit, with a 12.3 percent drop, no other region even came close.

Miami-Fort Lauderdale, meanwhile, had by far the country's biggest increase in the rate of foreclosures in the second quarter. In a list dominated by Florida metros, Tampa Bay posted the fifth-biggest increase.

At the time of the Brookings' comparison, the bay area's unemployment rate stood at 12.1 percent. It has since risen slightly to 12.3 percent. On Friday, Florida is releasing its jobs and unemployment report for August.

Tampa Bay area ranks among nation's worst in economic recovery 09/15/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 8:29am]

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