Cities Leading the Way Out of Recession

Some cities are better off than others post-recession.

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Economic security seems like a fleeting concept for everyone these days, but when it comes to financial wellbeing, some regions of the United States fare better than others, and you might be surprised at the results.

Using data on unemployment, house price declines, housing affordability, and delinquency rates, Margery Turner of the Urban Institute ranked the 100 most populous metro areas, giving them each letter grades and numeric rankings.

So which city ended up at the head of the class? Oklahoma City, Okla. Here's a look at the other cities that round out the top 10.

Metro Area
Change in Home Prices (2007 to 2011
Unemployment Rate (as of Sept. 2011
Income needed for 2-bed Apartment (as of 2010)
Mortgage Delinquency Rates (as of mid-2011)
Oklahoma City, Okla.
-8.8
5.5
$26,480
6.6
Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb.
-12.2
4.5
$30,640
5.3
Wichita, Kan.
-8.6
7.9
$25,600
6.0
Tulsa, Okla.
-7.7
6.4
$28,440
6.7
Des Moines-West Des Moines, Iowa
-13.0
5.6
$29,480
5.4
Pittsburgh, Penn.
-5.0
6.8
$29,200
7.5
Madison, Wis.
-13.8
5.2
$35,960
5.8
Austin-Round Rock, Texas
-7.8
7.5
$38,160
3.9
Baton Rouge, La.
-9.1
7.0
$31,680
7.3
Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y.
-5.4
7.3
$29,120
7.5

Source: Urban Institute analysis of LAUS, HPI, NUHC, OES, and LPS data

In general, cities with the most economic security tend to have lower-than-average unemployment and more affordable housing. For example, consider the table above compared to San Francisco. There, the unemployment rate is high—around 10 percent—and residents need to earn about $70,000 to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment.

The metro areas listed above have also seen milder home price declines, which makes digging out from the housing market bust just a little bit easier for residents living in those cities.

The least economically secure city was Las Vegas, according to the study, and it's not hard to understand why. Burned by overbuilding and an epidemic of foreclosures, Las Vegas experienced some of the worst home price declines in the country. For many Americans, their homes are they're largest asset. Take away the equity stored in a home, and retirement and other financial goals evaporate.

Add on to that high unemployment—almost 14 percent— and a high number of residents on the brink of mortgage default, and there's not a whole lot of economic security to be had. Here's a look at the other cities that make up the bottom 10.

Metro Area
Change in Home Prices (2007 to 2011
Unemployment Rate (as of Sept. 2011
Income needed for 2-bed Apartment (as of 2010)
Mortgage Delinquency Rates (as of mid-2011)
Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev.
-62.7
13.6
$42,520
21.9
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano, Fla.
-49.6
10.7
$51,280
23.6
Stockton, Calif.
-59.0
15.3
$37,880
13.8
Modesto, Calif.
-60.0
15.0
$37,200
13.0
Orlando-Kissimmee, Fla.
-50.8
10.2
$42,080
20.3
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.
-52.2
13.5
$44,320
14.6
Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice, Fla.
-48.7
11.0
$45,880
18.1
Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.
-47.9
12.0
$31,520
18.7
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla.
-45.1
10.8
$38,360
18.9
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla.
-50.4
11.6
$36,640
15.9

Source: Urban Institute analysis of LAUS, HPI, NUHC, OES, and LPS data

Where does your city rank? Check out the interactive graphic here.

mhandley@usnews.com

Twitter: @mmhandley