"Best Performing Cities" index sees improvement for most Iowa metros

The Des Moines Register brought to my attention a new report ranking 200 large metropolitan areas and 124 smaller metropolitan areas:

The 2009 Milken Institute/Greenstreet Real Estate Partners Best-Performing Cities Index ranks U.S. metropolitan areas by how well they are creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth.  The components include job, wage and salary and technology growth.

The list of smaller cities includes eight Iowa metros, and you can view the details here. My short take is after the jump.

Iowa City is the top-ranked metro in our state (22nd), which didn’t surprise me when I looked at the whole list. Quite a few college towns fare well on this index. Universities tend to provide decent wages and benefits and are not as quick to cut jobs during an economic downturn.

Six of the Iowa metros improved their rankings from 2008 to 2009: Iowa City, Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Omaha/Council Bluffs, Davenport/Quad Cities and Sioux City. The Davenport area showed massive improvement, jumping from 148th last year to 80th this year. Dubuque moved from 54th in 2008 to 44th in 2009.

The Des Moines metro dropped somewhat in the rankings from 25th to 53rd. I’m guessing that the housing market slump and layoffs by Wells Fargo and Principal Financial Group were important factors. I don’t know what factors caused the ranking of Waterloo/Cedar Falls to slide a bit from 69th to 84th. The unemployment rate in Black Hawk County isn’t particularly bad and is even a little better than in Dubuque or Scott counties.

The current recession has brought unemployment to levels not seen since the 1980s, but the relative improvement in performance of Iowa metros compared to small cities around the country, suggests to me that we our state’s economy is coping with the recession reasonably well.

Along those lines, the latest Iowa poll by Selzer and Co. for the Des Moines Register found that 45 percent of respondents say they are about as well off financially as they were four years ago, 40 percent said they were worse off, and just 15 percent said they were better off.

The same poll asked respondents a fascinating question: “When the national economy goes into recession, do you think it is a good time or bad time to be living in Iowa, or is it probably the same everywhere?” I was struck by the results: 57 percent said during a recession it’s a good time to be living here, 38 percent said it’s the same everywhere, and only 4 percent said it’s a bad time to be living here. Apparently Iowans do not have the sense that our state’s economy is doing significantly worse than other parts of the country.

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