Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX

Overall rank: 5 out of top 40


The sprawling, vibrant, and diverse metro has a major international airport, professional sports teams, and large corporations. It is home to ExxonMobil, J.C. Penney, and TXU Energy. Employment in the Dallas metro peaked in the second quarter of last year. Gross metropolitan product in the second quarter was down just 1.7% from the peak in the third quarter of 2008. Home prices grew 3% in the second quarter compared with the same period a year earlier. And the unemployment rate in June was 8.2%, up 3.1 points from a year earlier. (Please see below for the various criteria used by the Brookings Institution to determine the overall ranking.)

Job growth (since peak) rank: 13
Gross Metro Product (since peak) rank: 11
Unemployment change (year over year) rank: 32
Home price change (year over year) rank: 3

A combination of stable home prices and sizable sectors in health care, energy, government, and education kept these metropolitan areas relatively stable.

America’s strongest economies have one thing in common—home prices that never got too hot or too cold.

Home prices in metros such as San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh, Rochester, Little Rock, Ark., and Baton Rouge, La., remained steady through boom and bust. Although no metropolitan area entirely avoided the economic downturn, the most resilient metros were protected by a potent mix of recession-resistant jobs.

The upstate New York areas of Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, and Buffalo suffered from declining jobs in manufacturing, but got significant boosts from sizable health-care, education, and government sectors. Construction is booming in Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s capital, as firms take advantage of financing for post-Katrina hurricane recovery work and service-related companies expand to meet the needs of a growing population. Omaha and the state of Iowa have relatively strong insurance sectors.

Texas, the last state to enter recession, has been bolstered by its oil and gas industries—which have also helped Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Louisiana. Texas also has many other things going for it, including affordable home prices and relatively low wages, which attract corporations.

BusinessWeek.com used data and analysis from the Brookings Institution’s new MetroMonitor to come up with the nation’s 40 strongest economies. The MetroMonitor, which measures the nation’s health on a quarterly basis, ranks the top 100 metros based on job growth, unemployment, gross metropolitan product, and home prices.

A 22-year unemployment high in Texas

Although the metros in the ranking are strong by relative standards, their unemployment rates in many cases are now peaking because they entered the recession late. Texas, which had 5 metros in our top 10, including No. 1 San Antonio, is a good example.

The unemployment rate in Texas hit 8.2% in September, rising above 8% for the first time in 22 years. But that’s a very low unemployment rate, compared to the national rate of 9.8% or to Nevada’s 13.3% rate.

Texas is unlikely to face a prolonged downturn, said Terry Clower, an economist at the University of North Texas. The state’s affordable cost of living make it attractive to new residents and corporations, the largest of which tend to be based near Houston and Dallas.

“It’s perceived as a low-cost place to do business,” Clower said. “Because housing is affordable, the wage rates reflect that.”

Marisa Di Natale, a director at Moody’s Economy.com, said late arrivals to the recession will generally face mild downturns.

These metros “haven’t had a big erosion in housing wealth, which has kept consumer spending stronger than it would otherwise be,” Di Natale said.

Source: Business Week