Vegas still flattened by downturn, but Austin may be bulletproof

Nov. 30, 2010 at 6:24 PM ET

Alamy file /
Austin, Texas -- steady as she goes

Austin, Texas, has the nation’s best-performing economy over the past two years, while Las Vegas has the worst, according to a new study of 150 of the world’s biggest metropolitan areas.

The study of key cities in 53 countries found that many of the areas that flew the highest in the long expansion of 1993 to 2007 fell the hardest in the so-called Great Recession of 2008-09.

Dublin, Ireland; Madrid, Spain; the three Baltic capitals of Riga (Latvia) Tallinn (Estonia) and Vilnius, (Lithuania); along with Las Vegas and Riverside, Calif., moved from the top 30 spots before the recession to the bottom 30 spots during the recession, according to Global Metro Monitor from the Brookings Institution and London School of Economics.

Vegas was the nation’s No. 1 economic performer in the 17 years before the recession, trailed by Phoenix and Austin. Austin appears to hold the distinction of being the American city least affected by the downturn, ranking as No. 3 in economic performance before the recession, No. 3 during the recession and No. 1 since.

The recovery of the past two years, extremely modest in the United States and Europe, has been felt more strongly in other parts of the world.

Of the top 30 ranked metros in the most recent period, 29 were located outside the United States and Europe, according to the report. At the top of the heap is Istanbul, Turkey, a city that straddles Europe and Asia. China and India alone accounted for 10 of the top 30 cities.

Among U.S. cities, Virginia Beach, Va., Washington, D.C., and Dallas appear to be well on the road to recovery along with Austin. Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Atlanta join Las Vegas at the bottom of the heap.

The report underscores the sluggish nature of the global recovery: About half the 150 cities studied, especially in the United States and Europe, continue to lose ground in either income or employment.

Click here for a summary of the findings by region or you can get the full, 52-page report.