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Much of the Nation Still Waiting to Grow Beyond Recovery

As of April 2014, employment in the U.S. economy exceeded the 138.35 million jobs that existed when the recession began in December 2007. Employment in more than a third of the U.S. metropolitan areas, however, has yet to reach the same levels of employment they experienced in December 2007.

While national employment describes the recovery in aggregate, not all metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) are recovering at the same pace. In Texas, for example, many MSAs dipped briefly below pre-recession levels before recovering and expanding, likely buoyed by oil production. The Washington, D.C. area also recovered fairly quickly, supported by federal stimulus money going to a relatively higher concentration of federal contractors in the region.

In contrast, no MSAs in Arizona have recovered to December 2007 employment levels, and conditions vary considerably in the state. The Phoenix area has added an average of 4,475 jobs each month (about 0.2% of total employment) over the last twelve months of available data; at that rate, the region could recover to December 2007 levels of employment in about seven months. The Tucson area has added an average of 317 jobs (about 0.9% of employment) monthly over the past year—but at that rate, it would take the region another four years or more to fully recover recession job losses.

While most of the largest metro areas have reached pre-recession levels of employment and continue to expand, the map shown below indicates that many MSAs are still waiting to get back to the employment levels that existed over seven years ago.

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