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Published: Thursday, 12/16/2010

Toledo's economy still among weakest in U.S.

Toledo continued to languish among the 20 weakest-performing metro areas in the United States during the third quarter, despite experiencing the sixth-largest one-quarter jump in the goods and services it produces, a report released Wednesday shows.

The four-county metro area has yet to recover from the devastating impact of the collapse of both the financial sector and the automotive industry, according to the Brookings Institution.

Toledo ranked 94th among the largest 100 metro areas in the number of jobs it has shed from its most recent peak during the first quarter of 2006, dropping 12.3 percent compared to a U.S. average decline of 5.6 percent, researchers found. The area's gross metropolitan product — the total goods and services produced locally — remains 5.5 percent below where it was during the first three months of 2006, compared to the national average decline of just 1 percent, Brookings found.

“The overall take is pretty bad. Since the beginning of the recession and the recovery, all of Toledo's economy fell off a cliff and never really managed to climb back,” explained Howard Wial, an economist with Brookings and one of the report's authors.

“This has been by far the worst recession, and 11 quarters from the start, there's essentially been no recovery. Our basic indicators for Toledo are much, much worse than most other areas.”

Metro Toledo did experience an increase of 1.5 percent in its gross metropolitan product during the third quarter, and was one of just eight metro areas in the Great Lakes region that had job growth in the manufacturing sector during the third quarter. By contrast, 19 of the 21 metro areas in the Great Lakes had manufacturing sectors grow during the spring, Brookings said.

The lack of jobs continues to overshadow the local economic outlook, the report said. Metro Toledo's 10.3 percent unemployment rate during the third quarter ranked 74th nationally, and was more than a full percentage point higher than the 9.2 percent unemployment rate in U.S. metro areas during that period.

The Brookings report did put the Toledo metro area second in the nation in its one-quarter change in housing prices, indicating an increase in the third quarter of 2.2 percent, compared to a national average growth of 1 percent.

That figure is sharply at odds with an analysis last month by the National Association of Realtors and the Toledo Board of Realtors, both of which indicated double-digit declines in local home prices during the third quarter of this year.

Asked about the discrepancy, Brookings researchers said their data come from appraisals for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which focuses primarily on federally-backed loans and refinances on the lower end of the housing spectrum.

Metro Toledo's number of foreclosed properties ranked 55th nationally at 3.97 per 1,000 properties, while the one-quarter increase of 0.45 percentage points in that ratio experienced during the third quarter ranked 51st nationally.

Nationally, Brookings latest quarterly study found that those whose economies have suffered the most since the start of the Great Recession either experienced a large house price boom and bust or were heavily dependent on auto or auto parts manufacturing. By contrast, the areas that felt the least economic pains rely substantially on government, health care, education, and oil and gas, or are located in the Great Plains.

During the third quarter, only 25 percent of the largest metro areas experienced job growth, compared to 87 percent during the second quarter.

The study also found that just 36 of the 100 metro areas surveyed had fully recovered in their gross metropolitan product by the third quarter, while the remaining 64 metro areas — including Toledo — continued to lag.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at

lvellequette@theblade.com or

419-724-6091.



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