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Economy

Declining jobless rate aids Toledo in recovery

Unemployment drop 3rd best in country

A new report that attempts to rank the recovery pace of America's metropolitan areas says Toledo's improvement is among the best in the country -- especially in the unemployment rate.

According to the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program's quarterly Metro Monitor report, metro Toledo's unemployment rate dropped 4.7 percentage points from the second quarter of 2009 through the first quarter of this year. Brookings said that is third best in the country.

The drop in unemployment helped push metro Toledo -- which includes Lucas, Fulton, Wood, and Ottawa counties -- to the 16th best overall rank. That's up three spots from the last quarterly report, which ranked metro Toledo's recovery the 19th strongest.

Brookings, based in Washington, analyzes data including employment, unemployment, home prices, and output (a measure of goods and services produced) of the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas to determine its rankings.

"It's not necessarily a commentary on the current state of the economy or the current trajectory … but it really does show Toledo has performed more strongly during the course of the recovery," said Alec Friedhoff, a research analyst with Brookings. "It doesn't necessarily say the economy is doing well."

In general, Brookings said its study, which was released Wednesday, found the top 100 metro areas continue on a slow recovery path, marked by bettering employment but slowing rates of output growth.

Home prices also fell. Brookings said 73 of the 100 metros reached new lows in housing prices in the first quarter.

"The core takeaway is the recovery is happening, but it's happening at a very slow rate," Mr. Friedhoff said.

The New Orleans metro area has the strongest recovery through this year's first quarter. No. 2 on the list was the Houston metro area, followed by the Grand Rapids, Mich., area. The highest ranking Ohio metro was Youngstown, which was 10th.

Metro Toledo's unemployment rate peaked at 12.9 percent in the second quarter of 2009, compared to a U.S. unemployment rate of 9.5 percent. Through the first quarter the rate had fallen to 8.2 percent, which equaled the U.S. unemployment rate.

Toledo's recovery ranked 36th in employment. Brookings said metro Toledo's total employment is about 91 percent what it was when it peaked in the first quarter of 2006.

According to Brookings' data, housing prices are about 70 percent of what they were in 2005.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.

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