Report: Despite gains, Fresno economy still lags

Report ranks Fresno 99 out of 100 metros in terms of economic recoveryReport ranks Fresno 99 out of 100 metros in terms of economic recoveryFresno ranked almost last in economic recovery among the nation's largest cities during the first quarter, a recent report showed.

The Metro Monitor report, put out by the Brookings Institution, showed employment growth accelerating across most of the nation's 100 largest metro areas with average employment rising 0.54 percent from January to March.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased 0.6 percent while housing prices slipped 2.1 percent.

Fresno ranked 99 out of 100 metros in terms of economic recovery, just ahead of Little Rock, Ark. That's down from a rank of 95 in the previous quarter's report.

However, that doesn't mean conditions haven't improved. Fresno's employment increased 1 percent in the latest quarter compared to a decline of 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Fresno was among 81 cities that gained jobs in the quarter and one of only thirteen cities with employment gains of 1 percent or more.

Mining jobs saw the most growth with a 9.7 percent increase while manufacturing came next with a 3.3 percent change. Construction jobs ticked up 1.8 percent followed by agriculture at 1 percent. Real estate, government, education and the services sector all saw job losses in the quarter.

The city's unemployment rate fell 0.5 percentage points in the first quarter and now sits at 14 percent compared to 16.6 percent a year ago.

Fresno's GDP expanded another 0.5 percent in the latest quarter after rising 1 percent in the previous quarter.

Construction made up the strongest portion of that growth, with output rising 2 percent in the quarter while the information sector expanded 1.7 percent. The leisure and hospitality, mining and agriculture markets all constricted in terms of output.

Like most of the nation, however, home prices trended downward in Fresno, falling 2.9 percent in the quarter compared to a slight jump of 0.5 percent in the previous quarter.

New Orleans ranked highest in overall economic recovery during the quarter with employment growing 0.8 percent, GDP expanding 1.1 percent and housing prices falling 1.2 percent.