Augusta was listed as one of the top 20 highest-performing metro areas for nearly two years through the recession and early recovery, but the December report had Augusta in the bottom 20 list.
The March report, released Wednesday, doesn’t list Augusta on the bottom anymore, but the tone is still grim. The report measures the fourth quarter of 2011.
Unemployment in December was lower than the last year in 93 of the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S., according to the report. Augusta was one of the seven with an increase in unemployment from 2010 to 2011, along with such cities as Chicago and Raleigh.
Job recovery is also on the rise nationally, according to the report, but Augusta is one of the few poorly performing areas on that list as well. The report said 94 of the 100 largest metro areas have regained at least a portion of the jobs they lost between their employment peak and their post-recession employment low point.
Augusta, joined by Birmingham, Ala., and Albuquerque, N.M., has not recovered any of the jobs lost since the start of the recession.
“You’re not a high tech area and you’re not a strong manufacturing area,” Brookings economist Howard Wial said.
Some of the Augusta area’s largest employers are in the health care and federal government sectors. Those industries have not been hiring as much, Wial said, and that has stunted the area’s growth.
“You didn’t have government as an engine for growth as some other areas did,” he said.
It’s impossible to say what the magic cure for the Augusta economy is, Wial said, but the rest of the country isn’t doing much better.
“I don’t see a silver bullet,” he said. “Things are picking up overall, but the recovery is still painfully slow.”