Mountain states slower to shake off recession

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Economic recovery is challenging the Mountain West’s reputation for accelerating out of recessions faster than the rest of the country, according to the most recent “Mountain Monitor” from the Brookings Institute.

Employment statistics from the largest metro areas in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Idaho are down 7.4 percent from their peak before the recession through the fourth quarter, according to the report.

That contrasts with a 4.6 percent decline among the 100 largest metro areas. During the previous three recessions, the region as a whole managed to recover faster than the rest of the country.

“Metros 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 report says.

But it also says that for the first time in at least three decades, the Mountain West’s job recovery is lagging the nation’s.

Also included in the report:

Amid overall growth in business output across the mountain West, Denver, along with Colorado Springs and Ogden, Utah, are showing the greatest gains in gross metropolitan product among 10 of the region’s largest metro areas. Ogden and Albuquerque already have returned to their pre-recession output peaks, the report says.

But employment in the 10 metro areas declined 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter. “The slowness of the job recovery is new for the region,” the report says, noting that following the last three national recessions, job growth across the mountain West was faster than the national average.

Also “troubling,” says the report, “is the continued failure of a housing market recovery to materialize in the region; housing market declines actually accelerated in the fourth quarter.” A robust housing recovery had been a feature of past post-recession periods in the mountain states.

Despite its mixed view of the region’s rebound from the recession, the report notes that while the recession erased almost all of the job growth of the 2000-2010 decade nationwide, “the large metros of the Intermountain West still possess 9 percent more jobs than they started the decade with, given their torrid pre-recession growth rates.”

It also said the region’s education levels continued to predict better economic performance and lower unemployment rates across the Mountain West. Denver and Colorado Springs, which have weathered the recession rather well, do especially by this measure.