Augusta economy remains resilient

Augusta continues to weather the recession better than three-quarters of the major metropolitan areas in the country.

Augusta, bolstered by a foreclosure rate and an employment drop less severe than in other areas of the country, ranked 23rd among the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas in economic performance, the Brookings Institution said Tuesday.

The Washington, D.C., think tank releases MetroMonitor every three months, tracking the recession and recovery on a metropolitan level.

The latest report compares the July to September time period.

Augusta was ranked behind Albuquerque, N.M., but ahead of Baltimore in terms of its economic resilience.

"Getting all this national recognition, I feel strongly, will increase investment into the city," said Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver. "Companies do market research and seek information. For us to be recognized on all these rankings lists certainly creates a buzz about the city."

Augusta has been mentioned in national business publications over the past two months in stories about MetroMonitor rankings and other lists.

Augusta was also 23rd in the MetroMonitor tracking the second quarter of this year.

The top five performing cities are Austin, Texas; Baton Rouge, La.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Columbia; and Dallas. The worst performing cities are Tampa, Fla., and Stockton, San Jose, Sacramento and Riverside, Calif.

"While the national recession appeared to end in the third quarter of 2009, it continued in a number of metropolitan areas," said Alan Berube, the research director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings and co-author of the report. "In most metro areas where the regional economy expanded, job growth remained elusive."

The report examined indicators through the third quarter of 2009 in employment, unemployment, output, home prices and foreclosure rates.

Augusta fared the best in employment and foreclosure rates.

The area lost 2.6 percent of its jobs from the beginning of the recession to the end of September. That beat the 4.3 percent loss average of the major metro areas, according to Brookings.

Augusta had 1.69 bank-owned foreclosures for every 1,000 households. The metro average is 4.32 homes lost to foreclosure for every 1,000 households.

Reach Tim Rausch at (706) 823-3352 or timothy.rausch@augustachronicle.com.

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