Pandemic-Era Economic Growth in Metropolitan Areas

The world has gone through three turbulent years of Covid-19. The Brookings Institution continues its analysis of inclusive economic growth in 192 metropolitan areas in the U.S. during this period with the publication of Metro Monitor 2023.

3 minute read

March 14, 2023, 8:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


The three- year-anniversary of the World Health Organization's declaration of the coronavirus pandemic passed without much fanfare on March 11 as the world is no longer experiencing the public health crisis that marked the first two years. The economic recovery continues, and measuring it all, with an eye on inclusive growth, is the Brookings Institution.

The first year saw an acute recession, followed by “a rapid jobs recovery in 2021, and high and sustained inflation in 2022,” write researchers Joseph Parilla and Glencora Haskins of Brookings Metro on Feb. 28, 2023. The unexpected and unforced invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24, 2022, greatly exacerbated inflation in much of the world, particularly in terms of food and energy.

Now, three years since the beginning of the pandemic, our newly released Metro Monitor provides the first comprehensive look of how the crisis impacted inclusive growth across 192 U.S. metro areas with populations of at least 250,000. 

The Metro Monitor examines economic performance across five broad categories: growth, prosperity, overall inclusion, racial inclusion, and geographic inclusion.

Table 1 shows the 12 economic indicators, including GDP, average wages, and employment rate, that were used to measure the first four categories.

South scores highest

In the South, 31% of metro areas had a “Resilient” performance, meaning their inclusive growth score ranked in the top half of the distribution in both periods. Florida exemplifies this trend. Eleven of the state’s 16 metro areas with more than 250,000 people were in the “Resilient” category—even the communities most impacted by major hurricanes over the last decade, such as Port St. Lucie and Crestview-Fort Walton-Destin.

San Francisco Bay Area

“The San Francisco metro area saw an economic decline during the early pandemic that was one of the most dramatic in the country,” according to the Brookings index, reported Ronald Li for the San Francisco Chronicle on March 2.

Between 2011 and 2019, the San Francisco region, which includes the East Bay, ranked fourth overall on inclusive growth. But the region tumbled to 109th based on data between 2019 and 2021, reflecting the pandemic’s toll on the job market and new businesses amid some of the strictest health measures in the country and a widespread shift to remote work.

“San Francisco performed worse across the board on overall inclusion indicators (employment rate, median earnings, and relative income poverty rate) from 2019-2021 than they did in the pre-pandemic period,” [Parilla, director of applied research at Brookings Metro] said in a statement.

Planetizen has been monitoring the Brookings Monitor, with posts in 2020, 2018 and 2017:

Additional post on inclusive economic urban growth based on research from the Urban Institute:

Tuesday, February 28, 2023 in Brookings

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