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Salt Lake City among global 'pockets of growth'

Published November 30, 2012 6:53 pm

Economy • Brookings study cites six U.S. cities in group of 56 internationally.
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Salt Lake City is one of just six U.S. cities among 56 metropolitan economies across the world that rank as "pockets of growth," outperforming their home countries in the expansion of gross domestic product per capita and employment, the Brookings Institution said Friday.

The study by the Washington think tank's Metropolitan Policy Program tracked the economic performance of the largest 300 metropolitan areas worldwide for the past year. It found that in the U.S. only Pittsburgh, Dallas and Knoxville, Tenn., have fully recovered from the recession. And although Salt Lake City is still recuperating, its recovery rate is among the top 20 percent of the world's biggest cities,

"At the same time we see [a] generalized slowdown across the world in both developing and developed countries, we do see pockets of growth at the metropolitan level ... and Salt Lake City is one of them," said Emilia Istrate, lead author of Brookings' GlobalMetro Monitor study.

The city's gross domestic product totaled $71.3 billion in 2012, according to the study. GDP per capita — a rough calculation of the average standard of living in Salt Lake City — totaled $61,236 for every man, woman and child, up 2 percent from 2011, Istrate said. Employment in the city totaled 650,449, up 2.8 percent.

"Not only are these rates better than the U.S. average, but [the city's] economic performance placed Salt Lake City in the fastest-growing 60 metropolitan economies worldwide," she said.

Istrate said Salt Lake City has recouped its standard of living since the U.S. recession ended in 2009, but it hasn't recovered all the jobs that were lost. The reason is that Salt Lake City has a bigger gap to fill than fully recovered Pittsburgh, Dallas and Knoxville, she said.

The city is close, however. A preliminary estimate of employment by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Salt Lake City's job count in October was just 7,400 less than the all-time high in December 2007.

Natalie Gochnour, the Salt Lake Chamber's chief economist, said the conclusions about Utah's capital are consistent with indicators she has been tracking and what other business leaders are sensing.

"It's one of City Creek opening, the University of Utah entering the Pac 12, Twitter, Adobe, eBay, Oracle all expanding their presence. There is a significant amount of momentum and optimism about the future," Gochnour said.

Istrate said it isn't certain that Salt Lake City's growth will hold up in 2013. The U.S. recovery is "fragile," the eurozone is "failing" and emerging global markets are cooling.

"Salt Lake City is part of a global network, and it cannot build its prosperity on its own. It has to work to collaborate with state government, with the federal government, with other metropolitan areas in the U.S. and abroad to secure future growth," she said.

The other five cities cited as pockets of growth were Boston, Detroit, San Jose, Seattle and Worcester, Mass.

Half of the fastest-growing metropolitan economies were in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, while the slowest-growing metros were in Western Europe and North America, according to the study.


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