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Report: Metro Hartford One Of Nation's Healthiest Economies

Mara Lee

March 15, 2011

Metro Hartford suffered less during the 2008-09 recession, and has had a stronger recovery, than the vast majority of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country, according to a new report from a Washington think tank.

Ranked by economic performance, only four of the largest 100 metro areas were in the top 20 both during the recession and the recovery Hartford and three areas in Texas: McAllen, Austin, and San Antonio, the Brookings Institution said.

Most people in the capital city, and most economists, would say that the economy remains flat, with unemployment at 8.6 percent and slow job gains since the bottom a year ago. And, in fact, the Hartford area much of three counties, with 1.2 million people lost 2.4 percent of its jobs between the spring of 2008 and the end of 2010.

But that's better than all but 94 other metro areas. The average job loss among the largest 100 areas for the recession and afterward, through last year, was 6.3 percent.

Greater Hartford also far fewer foreclosed homes held by banks than average. It was one of just 14 metro areas that had at least three full quarters of job growth in 2010.

Why is Hartford doing better than many areas of the country? The report's authors say it avoided an unsustainable housing boom before the recession; it relies heavily on public employee rolls, which did not fall much; and the value of goods and services produced here has grown steadily, in marked contrast to most areas.

Some of the metro areas that did best in the recession were small cities and state capitals, full of government workers.

Still, the Hartford area is far from healthy, with an unemployment rate that put it in the middle of the pack at No. 49 at the end of last year. Just four metro areas have unemployment under 6 percent Omaha, Neb.; Madison, Wisc.; Honolulu; and Washington, D.C.

"This is an economy that's coming back inch by inch rather than yard by yard," said economist Donald L. Klepper-Smith of DataCore Partners in New Haven. "While we're in the midst of a recovery, it's certainly not your father's recovery in consumer confidence, job growth and buying power."

Klepper-Smith said he remains unconvinced of the Hartford region's strength.

By comparison to the Hartford Metro's 2.4 percent job loss, Fairfield County had a 7.9 percent job loss during the recession, although its housing prices are rebounding more quickly than Greater Hartford's, at the third-best pace in the country. Fairfield's prices fell further than the Hartford region's, so it still ends up behind.

The Fairfield County jobless rate was lower at the end of 2010, at 7.9 percent

New Haven, too, suffered a much larger hit to jobs, 7.7 percent, and its unemployment rate was 9.6 percent, well above the national average.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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