High unemployment and a weak housing market are the killers, according to the Brookings Institution's second-quarter report on the nation's metropolitan areas. It's a long report, but you only have to look at this map to get the gist: The bluer the dot, the stronger the economy; the redder the dot, the weaker. California is filled with red dots, while much of the Midwest is blue. Which brings up an important point about the recovery: One size doesn't fit all. So when you hear about resistance in Congress to stuff like extending unemployment benefits, remember this map and all the lucky blue dots that don't understand why us red dots can't get our acts together. From the report:
Many metropolitan areas began or continued to regain jobs lost during the recession, but only one--McAllen, TX--made a full employment recovery in the second quarter. Metropolitan areas with beleaguered housing markets in Florida, California, and parts of the Intermountain West continued to dominate the list of those experiencing the largest job losses from their peaks. Meanwhile, the badly battered manufacturing centers of the Great Lakes region began to reclaim lost ground, with many moving up or off the list of the hardest-hit job markets. Metropolitan areas in Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania, together with several state capitals, were once again among those that had lost the smallest share of jobs since the beginning of the Great Recession.
L.A. has the distinction of being among the 20 worst metro areas, according to Brookings (I believe it was second-weakest in earlier reports). Among the others on the list: Detroit, Vegas, Jacksonville, Fla., Miami, Phoenix, Riverside, Modesto, Oxnard, and Sacramento. The reality, of course, is that L.A. is too big and too diversified to classify so starkly; certain real estate markets here have fared quite well, in spite of the housing bust. But obviously, not nearly enough. One common denominator among the cities and states that are doing well: strong governments.