The View From Your Recession

Real Time Economics provides a nice online list of unemployment rates by metropolitan area. It’s fascinating to scroll through. Things I noted:

1) The top of the list if very geographically concentrated. CA, MI, FL, and OH appear again and again. It’s pretty easy to identify the places — the West Coast, the southern Atlantic coast, the Midwest — where things are worst, but it seems very clear that the recession in California and Michigan is an entirely different animal than the recession everywhere else. But the big takeaway is that the cities with above average rates are concentrated in just a few states.

2) There’s surprising strength in the eastern Rust Belt. Look who has a below average unemployment rate: Buffalo, Scranton, Syracuse, York, Pittsburgh. Not what I was expecting.

3) The resilient big metros are in the northeast corridor and in Texas. Boston, New York, Philly, Baltimore, and Washington are all well below average. Houston and Dallas, too. Funny thing is, the northeastern corridor had a pretty substantial housing bubble, while the bubble was basically nonexistent in Texas.

4) It’s good to be a college town.

5) It’s good to be Washington, DC. But you all knew that. The only major metropolitan area with a lower unemployment rate than Washington is (and I don’t understand this) New Orleans.

6) Rates differ dramatically across metros. There is a surprisingly large number of metro areas with unemployment at 7% or below. Their experience of this recession is going to be sharply different from those with rates at 9% or above (which is also a large number). One wonders how recovery will differ between the two groups, and how things like political opinion will move based on the differences. But as bad as things seem to us here in the Washington area, it seems clear that we have no conception what the pain is like in Michigan or inland California.


  1. IMGoph says:

    ryan: new orleans is lower because there are so many people employed in construction there. just saw that cited somewhere else yesterday, but i can’t for the life of me remember where (it might have been on daily kos).

  2. alli says:

    The economy in NOLA is semi-ok because our “recession” was a big fucking federal flood, and we’ve been floating on federal money ever since.

    Some of it is the construction “boom” (although you’d be hard-pressed to find a resident who feels like anything is booming around here), but for the most part, the reason our unemployment rate is so low is that New Orleans was forcibly emptied and the only people who could come back were the ones who could really afford to come back – so their job had to be there waiting for them. We don’t have a lot of foreclosure issues because we lost 200,000 housing units four years ago. We do, however, have more blight than the city of Detroit. We also have the highest murder rate in America.

    It’s good to be New Orleans, I guess. I’m sure as hell staying.

  3. RoboticGhost says:

    in re: #2. – I’m not surprised Ryan is surprised. Just disappointed that this meme persists. You could make a very strong case that Pittsburgh, and to a lesser degree Buffalo, aren’t really Rust Belt cities anymore. Manufacturing pre-recession accounted for only 7% of the Pittsburgh MSA GDP, well below the national average. Look who’s been on top of the Monster job index for the past year or so. Still surprised? Buffalo is a bioinformatics hot spot with a rosy future if things play out right. Ditto Syracuse.

  4. Daniel says:

    Yeah I am surprised that Scranton, Syracuse and Buffalo are below the average.

  5. JRoth says:

    I’m not surprised Ryan is surprised.

    Me neither. Ryan has never shown any understanding of industrial and post-industrial economies, nor has he shown that he knows what he doesn’t know.

  6. OGT says:

    I am not surprised by the East Coast cities, as even Glaeser has been forced to admit the fall out from a bubble with overbuilding is far greater than one with heavier restrictions. Far fewer people in Boston are employed in RE construction than say the Inland Empire.

    Similarly, I am also not terribly surprised by Buffalo or Pittsburgh since their industrial base is largely history.

    And I think the College town immunity may nearing its end in the near future. Both public and private universities are looking ripe for a shake out.