WASHINGTON, March 28 Employment improved and
housing prices rose in most major U.S. metropolitan areas in the
final quarter of 2012, but output sputtered, according to a
report released on Thursday by the Brookings Institution.
The study found that among the 100 largest areas, 78 posted
job gains during the fourth quarter, while job growth rates
accelerated in 57 metropolitan areas.
Still, employment levels returned to where they were before
the 2007-2009 recession in only 14 metropolitan areas. Six of
those areas were in Texas: Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston,
McAllen and San Antonio.
Most metropolitan areas started 2013 with brighter job
pictures than the year before. In January, 227 out of all 372
metropolitan areas in the country had unemployment rates lower
than January 2012, and the rates were unchanged in 21 areas,
according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, 306
metropolitan areas gained jobs over the year.
Home prices have been rising in recent months and were up an
average of 0.3 percent across the country during the fourth
quarter when adjusted for inflation, according to the report
from Brookings, an independent research group based in
Washington, D.C. In major metropolitan areas, which typically
encompass at least one large city and its surrounding suburbs,
the average rise was more than double that - at 0.8 percent.
Altogether, home prices increased in 85 out of the largest
100 areas during the fourth quarter.
Brookings found the strongest improvements were in the areas
that suffered the most economic damage from the housing crisis:
Nevada's Las Vegas, Arizona's Phoenix, Florida's Cape Coral,
California's Stockton, and Idaho's Boise. There, the increases
were all around 3 percent or more.
Rising home prices are seen as an indicator of the economic
recovery gaining momentum.
For local governments that use property taxes as their chief
sources of revenue, the upswing will curb the major budget cuts
that cities and counties have made in recent years.
Still, when it comes to economic activity, not much has
changed for the typical metropolitan area. In a little less than
half - 45 - output grew during the quarter, while in 55 metro
areas, or slightly more than half of them, output fell.
"This marked a surprising decline in the rate of output
growth from prior quarters, due overall to reduced inventories
and defense spending," Brookings said.