Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

The World's Biggest Winner and Loser Cities Since the Crash

According to a new Brookings Institution report

The global economy may dominate headlines, but growth happens locally -- and cities do the heavy lifting. They hold just a fifth of the world's population, yet count for half of global economic output. A Brookings Institution rank of the world's 300 largest metro areas, released Thursday, drives the point home.

First, here's a table that lists the top 10 performers in the years since the global financial crisis. Metros are ranked using both employment gains and economic growth per person since 2009, and the bars to the right show how they fared in employment and GDP growth last year.

0121 top performers

 If you've never heard of these cities, just you wait. Many of them are moving on up the value chain from low-cost labor to more involved production, said Joseph Parilla, a research analyst at Brookings and one of the study authors. That could help them to break onto the global stage.

China in particular has been accelerating, with the top-performer Xiamen (located on the Southeast coastline, known for tourist-crowded beaches) growing a stunning 8.6 percent last year. For context, that's 4.5 times the speed of growth in Austin, the best-performer in the U.S.

Digging deeper into the rankings, it's clear that this isn't just a China story: Developing economies dominated. In the ranking for just 2013-2014, Turkish cities took three of the top 5 spots.

It's important to note that most places with high GDP per capita growth came from the lowest bases, giving them more room for upward motion. For instance, Nanning's GDP per capita was $4,860 in 2013 -- compared with $82,410 in Zurich.

The real question now, according to Parilla: ``Can these lower-income places continue to converge and pull the entire growth rate forward?''

This map of China and Japan tells a tale of two cities: the rich versus the emerging. Navy dots signal a spot in the 2013-2014 ranking's top quintile, light blue dots are the second quintile, beige marks the middle and red -- you guessed it -- is the tail end. 

0121 map
Source: Brookings

Japan isn't lonely at the bottom. Other developed metros are lost out, too. See this ranking of the bottom performers since 2009:

0121 Developed

 It should come to no one's surprise that the worst performer was Athens, ground zero of the financial bloodbath that was the European sovereign debt crisis. Things only got worse after Greece was forced to implement the mother of all tax increases (and budget cuts) to be eligible for its bailout. No wonder we're still talking about a Grexit from the euro.

Most U. S. cities have bumbled along in the middle since the crisis: no crying, but no dancing either. Los Angeles came in at 164; New York at 176. Tech boom San Francisco ranked 118.

A note on the technical stuff: the study defines a metro area as a region including one or more cities and their surround­ing areas. GDP per capita is the size of an economy relative to population, not personal or household income, and employment measures people who performed any work in the period. The metro performance ranking uses both metrics.

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