A new report says the economy in the Western United States is improving, but jobs are still scarce.
The Mountain Monitor from the Brookings Institution says the economic recovery is spreading across the region, with all 10 of the regions largest cities posting growth for the second straight quarter.
Two metros—Ogden and Albuquerque—have, in fact, fully achieved their pre-recession output peaks. Over the third and fourth quarters, Colorado Springs, Denver, and Ogden posted the largest gains in gross metropolitan product (GMP) among large Mountain metros with quarterly growth rates above 2.0 percent. Only Las Vegas significantly trailed the national average of 1.6 percent on GMP growth.
Even though the recovery is gaining some momentum, it’s not moving as fast for a region that is “used to snapping back” from economic downturns. The anemic rate of job recovery across the West is quite unusual.
Subsequent to the last three national recessions, employment in each of the Intermountain West metro areas recovered faster than the national average and, with one exception, fully recovered eight quarters after the start of the recession. The 1981 recession began in the third quarter of 1981. Two years later, the large metros of the Intermountain West had 2.9 percent more jobs than they had at the beginning of the recession. Only Las Vegas lagged behind its pre-recession employment level with 1.4 percent fewer. The recession of 1990–1991 was even milder: Every Intermountain West metro ended up with more jobs two years later than they had when the recession started—an average of 4.9 percent more. The 2001 recession was somewhat more severe. The average Intermountain metro had 1.7 percent fewer jobs two years later than when the recession started, but Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Boise had more. Now, two years after the start of the Great Recession, the Intermountain West possesses 6.1 percent fewer jobs than it had when the recession started.
The slow housing market is still dragging on the economy in the West, but the recession has not completely erased the job growth from the past decade.