July 26, 2010

Report ranks Baltimore strong to weather recession

The Baltimore region’s economy has demonstrated relative strength in weathering the recession when compared to others in the nation’s Top 100 metropolitan regions, according to a June MetroMonitor report from Brookings Institution. Overall, the Baltimore region ranks among 19 regions that were rated as the “second strongest” metropolitan areas to have weathered the Great Recession. (Click here to read the full report.)

The report measured economic outputs – the Gross Metropolitan Products (GMP) – of the Top 100 U.S. metropolitan regions during the recession. It also measured performance for other key economic indicators including employment levels, unemployment rates, housing prices, and the number of foreclosed properties that fail to sell at auction. Among Mid-Atlantic regions, only one – the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region – was among 21 regions rated as the overall “strongest” to weather the recession. Three other metros from Mid-Atlantic States – Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Virginia Beach – also ranked with the Baltimore region in the “second strongest” group.

That’s the good news. Less uplifting are the report’s findings that, while most U.S. regions registered gains in economic output from pre-recession peaks to the end of 2009, these economic rebounds were not matched by employment rebounds. For example, the Baltimore region registered a 4.8 percent increase in GMP from its previous peak in the 2nd quarter of 2008. However, employment in the Baltimore region remains at just 95.3 percent of its pre-recession level, and has yet to make a turn upward. Greater Baltimore was among 32 regions that have recovered their pre-recession levels of economic output. But neither Baltimore nor any of the top 100 regions has fully recovered their previous employment levels. The lower employment statistics have been accompanied by tenaciously elevated unemployment rates, significantly reduced housing prices, and elevated levels of foreclosed properties that mortgage-holders have been unable to sell.

The Baltimore region ranks 4th among all regions for economic recovery since 2008, but it ranks 30th for employment growth during the same period. More disconcerting is that the Baltimore region’s 0.3 percent employment drop in the 1st quarter of 2010 ranks 60th among the 100 regions measured in the Brookings report. Here’s how the Baltimore region performed on other key indicators measured by Brookings:

• Unemployment rate. The region’s 8.0 percent unemployment rate ranks 21st best and is less than the 10.2 percent U.S. average. Its 4.4 percentage-point unemployment rate increase over the last three years ranks 29th. The region’s one-year unemployment rate increase of 0.8 percentage points ranks 36th.

• Housing prices. The Baltimore region’s 20.4 percent decrease in housing prices during the last three years ranks 69th. The national average for that period was a 17.4 percent decrease, while the average decrease for all measured metro areas was 21.4 percent.

• Real estate-owned properties. In March 2010, the Baltimore region had 3.97 per 1,000 foreclosed properties that failed to sell at auction. This ranks our region 68th, and was slightly more than the national average, but less than the average for all regions measured by Brookings.

Donald C. Fry is president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. He is a regular contributor to Center Maryland. SOURCE: Center Maryland

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