Current recession hard on Grand Rapids


    A new report from the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution shows that the city of Grand Rapids is recovering much slower from the current recession than from the three previous ones.

    In fact, the report listed Grand Rapids as one of the 19 weakest performing cities in the study’s analysis of the nation’s top 100 metropolitan areas. Detroit also made that list. So did eight cities in Florida, including Orlando and Miami, and four in California, including Sacramento and Stockton. Youngstown, Ohio, was also on the list.

    The report also noted that Grand Rapids was among the 63 metro areas that lost a greater share of jobs eight quarters after the start of the current recession, which began in December 2007, than it did during the eight quarters after the recessions in 1981, 1990 and 2001 began.

    In 1981, the city had an employment recovery rating of 100.12 percent after eight quarters — meaning Grand Rapids had recouped the jobs it lost at the start of that recession. In 1990, the city’s employment recovery rating was even better, at 101.82 percent after eight quarters.

    After eight quarters of the 2001 recession, though, the city’s employment recovery rating was 95.17 percent — meaning Grand Rapids hadn’t regained the jobs it lost two years into the downturn. After eight quarters of the Great Recession, the rating was worse at 93.49 percent.

    So after two years, from December 2007 to December 2009, the current recession has been tougher on employment in the city than the three previous ones. Last December, the city’s unemployment rate was the highest in its history at 12.2 percent.

    The report also found that in Grand Rapids:

    • Employment fell by 6.9 percent from a peak in 2004 to December 2009.
    • Unemployment rose by 3.2 percent from December 2008 to December 2009.
    • The Gross Metro Product fell by 3.4 percent from a 2004 peak to the fourth quarter of 2009.
    • The House Price Index fell by 8 percent from the fourth quarter of 2008 to the fourth quarter of 2009.

    As for the nation, the report found that the largest 100 metro areas had lost 4.6 percent of their jobs since the current recession began. That is far worse than the previous two-year loss rates of 1.9 percent in the 2001 recession and 1.8 percent in the 1990 recession. In 1981, the top 100 metro areas actually had a slight job increase of one-10th of a percent after two years of that recession.

    “The country is recovering much more slowly from this recession than it did from others over the past three decades,” said Howard Wial, a co-author of the Brookings report.

    The Brookings report also found that employment in Grand Rapids fell by 8.9 percent from the 4th quarter of 1999 through the 4th quarter of 2009, and calculated that job loss will cost the city 13.5 years of employment growth. To read the report, go to

    Next week: How Grand Rapids stacks up in the Great Lakes region.

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