Brookings: Recession hammered mountain west, went easy on Springs

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The Brookings Institute has concluded that no multistate region was hit harder by last year’s economic crisis than the six-state Intermountain zone, which includes Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado and Nevada.

The declaration comes from Brookings inaugural quarterly report about the economic health of the intermountain west and is based on data from the 3rd quarter of 2009.

But the report shows that the pain is not spread evenly.

While Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Boise are characterized as the three most troubled metropolitan areas in the entire nation during the third quarter, other areas have fared comparatively well – including Colorado Springs.

“Across the region, the deflation of a massive housing ‘bubble,’ widespread job losses, and the onset of a significant public-sector fiscal crisis have wreaked havoc on many communities,” the report says. “In many Intermountain region locations, the sheer abruptness of the shift from hyper-growth early in the decade to a severe contraction in the last year has spawned a sense of almost existential whiplash.”

Still, the report said, metro areas like Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, and Denver have only been moderately affected by the recession and seem poised to renew their upward trajectory as the pace of recovery quickens.

The upshot: While the Intermountain West is an increasingly distinct region in national affairs, it remains disparate – a still-loosely linked network of individual metropolitan economies, some of which remain mired in recession and many of which are clearly recovering.

The report further concludes that cities with highly educated work forces and diversified economies have weathered the “great recession” more successfully than their regional peers – and that includes Colorado Springs.

“More broadly, metropolitan education levels and concentration in such industries as health services and related social services seem to have protected some metros from the worst economic stress,” the report said.

Most notably, those metro areas with a more educated workforce – such as Denver and Colorado Springs – have weathered the recession significantly better than other Mountain metros on almost every measure. High concentrations in health and social related services have also protected areas against economic decline on a variety of measures.

Click here to read the report.