On June 22, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke said U.S. economic growth is "continuing at a moderate pace, though somewhat more slowly" than previously anticipated, according to Bloomberg.

Of course, not all cities are created equal, according to data and analysis from the Brookings Institution's quarterly review of economic indicators of metropolitan areas across the country.

Anchored by large research institutions, military bases, and other stable employers, some metro areas, from Boston to Columbus to El Paso, have shown more resilience to the downturn than others. There is no suggestion that any area has been exempt from the social ills that resulted from the downturn. Unemployment remains in double digits around much of the country, with the Fresno (Calif.) area showing more than 18 percent unemployment in March. The top areas in this survey are down around 5 percent or 6 percent, with Honolulu showing the lowest unemployment.

The economic picture, even within states, can vary drastically. The major indicators—employment, gross metro product, and housing prices—show that some cities have fared better during two years of expansion by the world's largest economy.

Read on to see which U.S. metros have recovered to their prerecession levels.

The Brookings Institution ranked the 100 largest metros by averaging the rankings for four key indicators: employment change, unemployment change, gross metropolitan product, and home price change. Employment was measured by the change from the peak quarter for each metro to the first quarter of 2011. The peak was the quarter in which the metro area had the most jobs during the past five years. The unemployment rate was measured from March 2008 to March 2011. Gross metropolitan product was measured from the peak quarter to the first quarter of 2011. And the ranking of home prices compared the first quarter of 2011 with the previous quarter. The employment data were provided by Moody's Economy.com, the unemployment data were collected from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the home price index came from the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Source: The Brookings Institution's MetroMonitor
On June 22, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke said U.S. economic growth is "continuing at a moderate pace, though somewhat more slowly" than previously anticipated, according to Bloomberg.

Of course, not all cities are created equal, according to data and analysis from the Brookings Institution's quarterly review of economic indicators of metropolitan areas across the country.

Anchored by large research institutions, military bases, and other stable employers, some metro areas, from Boston to Columbus to El Paso, have shown more resilience to the downturn than others. There is no suggestion that any area has been exempt from the social ills that resulted from the downturn. Unemployment remains in double digits around much of the country, with the Fresno (Calif.) area showing more than 18 percent unemployment in March. The top areas in this survey are down around 5 percent or 6 percent, with Honolulu showing the lowest unemployment.

The economic picture, even within states, can vary drastically. The major indicators—employment, gross metro product, and housing prices—show that some cities have fared better during two years of expansion by the world's largest economy.

Read on to see which U.S. metros have recovered to their prerecession levels.

The Brookings Institution ranked the 100 largest metros by averaging the rankings for four key indicators: employment change, unemployment change, gross metropolitan product, and home price change. Employment was measured by the change from the peak quarter for each metro to the first quarter of 2011. The peak was the quarter in which the metro area had the most jobs during the past five years. The unemployment rate was measured from March 2008 to March 2011. Gross metropolitan product was measured from the peak quarter to the first quarter of 2011. And the ranking of home prices compared the first quarter of 2011 with the previous quarter. The employment data were provided by Moody's Economy.com, the unemployment data were collected from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the home price index came from the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Source: The Brookings Institution's MetroMonitor

America's Economically Strongest Metro Areas

Recovery to prerecession levels
Recovery to prerecession levels
On June 22, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke said U.S. economic growth is "continuing at a moderate pace, though somewhat more slowly" than previously anticipated, according to Bloomberg.

Of course, not all cities are created equal, according to data and analysis from the Brookings Institution's quarterly review of economic indicators of metropolitan areas across the country.

Anchored by large research institutions, military bases, and other stable employers, some metro areas, from Boston to Columbus to El Paso, have shown more resilience to the downturn than others. There is no suggestion that any area has been exempt from the social ills that resulted from the downturn. Unemployment remains in double digits around much of the country, with the Fresno (Calif.) area showing more than 18 percent unemployment in March. The top areas in this survey are down around 5 percent or 6 percent, with Honolulu showing the lowest unemployment.

The economic picture, even within states, can vary drastically. The major indicators—employment, gross metro product, and housing prices—show that some cities have fared better during two years of expansion by the world's largest economy.

Read on to see which U.S. metros have recovered to their prerecession levels.

The Brookings Institution ranked the 100 largest metros by averaging the rankings for four key indicators: employment change, unemployment change, gross metropolitan product, and home price change. Employment was measured by the change from the peak quarter for each metro to the first quarter of 2011. The peak was the quarter in which the metro area had the most jobs during the past five years. The unemployment rate was measured from March 2008 to March 2011. Gross metropolitan product was measured from the peak quarter to the first quarter of 2011. And the ranking of home prices compared the first quarter of 2011 with the previous quarter. The employment data were provided by Moody's Economy.com, the unemployment data were collected from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the home price index came from the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Source: The Brookings Institution's MetroMonitor
Strongest metro: Augusta-Richmond County, Ga.-S.C.
Strongest metro: Augusta-Richmond County, Ga.-S.C.
Change in real gross metro product since peak*: 4.0 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak*: -3.4 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011)*: 8.4 percent
Change in housing prices since peak*: -12.9 percent

The economy of the Augusta-Richmond County area, near the South Carolina border, is 4 percent larger now than during its prerecession peak. It offers a low cost of living, with housing costs below the national average, as well as a steady economy. Companies in the area include T-Mobile, FedEx, Amoco, AT&T, Electrolux, ConAgra, and DuPont, according to the Development Authority of Richmond County.

*Source on all slides: Brookings Institution MetroMonitor. All data reflect changes as of the first quarter 2011. Slides are listed in alphabetical order.
Strongest metro: Austin-Round Rock, Tex.
Strongest metro: Austin-Round Rock, Tex.
Change in real gross metro product since peak: 5.0 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: -0.3 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 6.8 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -10.1 percent

Greater Austin, Texas's capital region, benefits from strong employment in government and education, as well as a growing technology sector. The area is home to more than 3,800 technology companies and more than 91,000 technology employees, according to the Austin Chamber of Commerce. Major employers include the public schools, government, Dell, IBM, and the University of Texas at Austin.
Strongest metro: Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass.-N.H.
Strongest metro: Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass.-N.H.
Change in real gross metro product since peak: 4.5 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: -2.7 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 7.0 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -23.3 percent

Boston's labor market gets a boost from its many universities and hospitals and its diverse business sector. The largest employers in the city of Boston include Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Boston University, according to the Boston Redevelopment Authority.
Strongest metro: Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Strongest metro: Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Change in real gross metro product since peak: -0.9 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: -2.8 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 8.1 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -5.9 percent

The Buffalo metro area, a rust belt region that continues to experience industrial decline, is shifting from manufacturing to other industries to support its economy. Health-care and social assistance jobs, for example, have grown to about 73,400 in May 2011, from an average 69,600 in 2007, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Employment in leisure and hospitality also jumped to 55,200, from 49,100, in the same period. As the area's housing market did not spike during the real estate bubble, home prices have been stable relative to many other parts of the country.
Strongest metro: Columbus, Ohio
Strongest metro: Columbus, Ohio
Change in real gross metro product since peak: 5.6 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: -3.2 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 7.6 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -18.2 percent

Not only has Columbus emerged as one of the country's strongest performing economies since the downturn—with gross metro product 5.6 percent above the prerecession peak—its recovery has also been better than most, according to the Brookings Institution. The area has gained jobs in all of the last four quarters. According to the Columbus Chamber on Commerce, the area is the second-fastest growing metro in the Midwest.
Strongest metro: Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Tex.
Strongest metro: Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Tex.
Change in real gross metro product since peak: 3.6 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: -2.5 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 8.1 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -10.2 percent

Texas's largest metro area has thriving logistics, technology, and professional service industries, including such companies as Texas Instruments, Exxon-Mobil, Baylor Health Care System, and Bell Helicopter, according to the Dallas Regional Chamber. The area has attracted many new residents, and the population has grown from 6 million in 2006 to nearly 6.4 million in 2010, according to data from Texas A&M University and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Strongest metro: El Paso
Strongest metro: El Paso
Change in real gross metro product since peak: 3.6 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: 2.0 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 10.0 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -11.1 percent

The El Paso metro area, which borders Mexico in the Western corner of Texas, regained nearly all the jobs lost between the area's prerecession high and post-recession low, according to the Brookings Institution. With the continued influx of soldiers at Fort Bliss, the area economy is expected to perform better in 2011 than last year and outperform the national economy, according to a report by the University of Texas at El Paso.
Strongest metro: Honolulu
Strongest metro: Honolulu
Change in real gross metro product since peak: 4.3 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: -3.1 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 5.0 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -16.2 percent

Area unemployment in Honolulu has remained low throughout the downturn, peaking at 6.5 percent in June 2009, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of jobs in government, education, and health services, among the metro's major industries, has been fairly stable. Also, tourism has been rising this year over 2010 levels, according to data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
Strongest metro: Jackson, Miss.
Strongest metro: Jackson, Miss.
Change in real gross metro product since peak: 5.4 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: -4.3 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 8.2 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -12.6 percent

Like many other strong metro economies, Mississippi's capital region benefits from government employment. Major employers in the Jackson area include the state and U.S. government, University of Mississippi Medical Center, the public schools, and Nissan, according to the Greater Jackson Alliance Mississippi.
Strongest metro: Knoxville, Tenn.
Strongest metro: Knoxville, Tenn.
Change in real gross metro product since peak: 2.7 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: -3.5 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 7.5 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -11.7 percent

Knoxville may be a major warehousing and distribution center, but the government, education, and health industries have kept the metro economy strong in the downturn. The Knoxville area's largest employers include the U.S. Energy Dept., University of Tennessee, and Covenant Health, according to data from Innovation Valley, a regional economic development group.
Strongest metro: Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Ark.
Strongest metro: Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Ark.
Change in real gross metro product since peak: 7.6 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: -2.4 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 6.8 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -9.9 percent

The Arkansas state capital of Little Rock has rebounded better than most, with state employment improving nearly every month since February of last year. May saw a small dip in employment numbers, but unemployment remains far below the national average. That doesn't mean Little Rock is in the clear; the City of Little Rock remains cash-strapped and has stopped replacing aging police cars.
Strongest metro: Madison, Wis.
Strongest metro: Madison, Wis.
Change in real gross metro product since peak: 4.2 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: -1.5 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 5.7 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -14.4 percent

Home prices have been hit hard by the recession, with a new low in June that equals the prices of 2002. Despite low real estate prices, Madison's economy is leading the way on job creation in Wisconsin. In May, Madison added 2,600 jobs, while the state gained only about 900 total. The University of Wisconsin-Madison and the state government remain stable employers in the region, even as new areas of growth in biotech and health are seeing growth.
Strongest metro: McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Tex.
Strongest metro: McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Tex.
Change in real gross metro product since peak: 5.1 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: 2.2 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 11.9 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -11.8 percent

Located on the easternmost border with Mexico, the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metropolitan area is one of the fastest growing in the country. It is also one of the poorest in the country. Growth has continued through the recession as a low cost and high job creation area in cities like Pharr, Mission, and Edinburg.
Strongest metro: Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn.
Strongest metro: Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn.
Change in real gross metro product since peak: 3.6 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: -3.5 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 8.3 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -13.0 percent

Although the area around Nashville has suffered a net decline in jobs and a corresponding decline in housing prices, productivity in the area has increased. The largest employers remain Vanderbilt University and government positions even as health-care and technology companies expand in the area.
Strongest metro: Oklahoma City, Okla.
Strongest metro: Oklahoma City, Okla.
Change in real gross metro product since peak: 6.0 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: -2.8 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 5.2 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -8.6 percent

Oklahoma City has seen some effects of the recession, but it remains stronger than other cities. Oklahoma's jobs are anchored in energy exploration, including such large corporations as Devon Energy and Chesapeake Energy, but its economy has recently diversified into health care, technology, and services.
Strongest metro: Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb.-Iowa
Strongest metro: Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb.-Iowa
Change in real gross metro product since peak: 3.2 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: -2.7 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 5.2 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -13.3 percent

With a strong service sector and telecommunications industry, unemployment remains low in Omaha. Also in the area are large government employers, such as Offutt Air Force Base. Moreover, some of the biggest companies in the country call Omaha home, such as Berkshire Hathaway and Union Pacific.
Strongest metro: Pittsburgh
Strongest metro: Pittsburgh
Change in real gross metro product since peak: 2.3 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: -1.5 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 7.4 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -6.5 percent

Long a center of the steel industry, Pittsburgh has been well noted for its transition from an industrial city to a center for companies that specialize in such sectors as health and technology. Energy development is also helping Pittsburgh pick up jobs, with increased development of the Marcellus Shale formation in the region.
Strongest metro: Rochester, N.Y.
Strongest metro: Rochester, N.Y.
Change in real gross metro product since peak: -2.6 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: -2.5 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 7.7 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -7.6 percent

Known as the imaging capital of the world, Rochester is home to Eastman Kodak and the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester. Although not headquartered in Rochester, Bausch & Lomb and Xerox both have a significant presence. Research and government jobs also are important in the area, with the university and Rochester Institute of Technology now among the largest employers.
Strongest metro: San Antonio
Strongest metro: San Antonio
Change in real gross metro product since peak: 3.3 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: -0.6 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 7.3 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -8.5 percent

San Antonio has nearly regained the jobs lost during the recession. The defense industry (San Antonio is a major military center) is a large employer that has remained solid through the downturn. Other large employers are government, financial services, and health care.
Strongest metro: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.Va.
Strongest metro: Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.Va.
Change in real gross metro product since peak: 8.1 percent
Change in no. of jobs since peak: -0.9 percent
Unemployment rate (Mar 2011): 5.8 percent
Change in housing prices since peak: -30.5 percent

Although home prices in the Washington (D.C.) area are far from the peak, the city has been seeing solid growth even as other cities slip. Government employers in the area have remained stable, along with large educational institutions, such as Georgetown University and George Washington University.