Report: Western mountain states slow to recover |

Report: Western mountain states slow to recover


For a region that historically emerged from recessions with little trouble, the Intermountain West is still struggling to shake off the effects of the Great Recession.

That and other findings were published today in a new economic analysis of the six-state region that includes Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. It was authored by Brookings Mountain West based at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Carson City ranked 14th in overall economic performance out of 17 smaller metro areas, which includes last-place Reno.

Carson City’s economy grew by 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter last year while its unemployment rate ended 2009 at 12.7 percent.

Meanwhile, Fort Collins-Loveland, Colo., which ranked No. 1 among smaller metro areas, grew 2 percent in the fourth quarter while maintaining a 6.1 percent unemployment rate.

“The Intermountain West has been almost impervious to national declines over the last 30 years,” wrote authors Mark Muro and Jonathan Rothwell. “Construction growth looked automatic. Job growth seemed a given. And when there were recessions as in the 1980s and 1990s they were – in retrospect – mere blips in a steady upward trajectory.”

That seems to be no longer the case, no thanks to a sluggish housing sector among other factors.

Some cities, such as Ogden, Utah, and Albuquerque, N.M., have returned to pre-recession output levels while Colorado Springs, Ogden and Denver grew 2 percent in the third and fourth quarters, outpacing the national average of 1.6 percent.

Las Vegas was the worst performing large metro area, according to the report. Boise and Phoenix were second and third to last.

There was a bright spot: Despite the Great Recession and its effects on unemployment, Las Vegas still had 23.3 percent more jobs at the end of 2009 than it did at the end of 1999.