Study: 93% of US counties have not recovered from recession

In his State of the Union address, the president bragged about how well the economy is doing, saying, "The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world."

Oh, really?

A study by the National Association of Counties has found that of the 3,069 counties in the US, 93% still have not recovered from the Great Recession.  Only 214 counties have seen their economies return to pre-recession levels.

Wall Street Journal:

Nationwide, 214 counties, or 7% of 3,069, had recovered last year to prerecession levels on four indicators: total employment, the unemployment rate, size of the economy and home values, a study from the National Association of Counties released Tuesday found.

The reality is slowing population growth and industry shifts mean some parts of the country will likely never fully recover. But by the end of last year, more counties had not recovered on any one of the four indicators, 16%, than had recovered on all of them.

“Americans don’t live in a single economic place,” said Emilia Istrate, the association’s director of research and outreach and one of the study’s authors. “It tells you why many Americans don’t feel the good economic numbers they see on TV.”

As was the case in 2014, when just 65 counties had fully recovered, most of those that bounced back are in states benefiting from the energy boom. Last year, 72 of the recovered counties were in Texas, the most of any state. Nebraska followed with 22. Minnesota, Kentucky, North Dakota, Montana and Kansas each had at least 10 fully recovered counties.

Meanwhile, in 27 states, not a single county had fully recovered.

Some of the nation’s largest counties finally recovered from the recession in 2015, including the counties containing Denver, San Francisco, San Jose, Dallas and Columbus, Ohio. In 2014, no county with more than 500,000 residents had fully recovered. Last year, 17 of 126 had.

The recovery is spreading out from the energy-rich center of the country—in part because a massive drop in oil prices is reversing job creation there while providing an economic benefit to larger metro areas near the coasts.

Numerous counties on the West Coast, Nevada, New York, Florida and the Carolinas recorded better than 4% economic growth last year, the NACo study found. (The entire country appears to be growing at about a 2% rate.) But a large swath of counties in Texas, Illinois and other states in the middle of the country suffered economic contractions last year.

This is not an "uneven" recovery.  This is a non-recovery.  Livingston County, Ill., where I live, has an "official" unemployment rate of 6%.  That is hilariously wrong.  The actual rate is almost double that figure, as many of the unemployed have simply given up looking for work or are working two or more part-time jobs.  Economic activity in my small town of Streator is at a near standstill.  In the six years I've lived here, several retail outlets – including K-Mart – have closed, while there is already talk that the Walmart Super Store that opened four years ago may be shuttered.

A major employer – St. Mary's Hospital and Trauma Center – has virtually closed, at a cost of about 500 jobs.  Several factories that employed about 1,500 workers have gone bankrupt or moved on in the last six years.

The president complains that the economic naysayers refuse to take into account job growth and other measures of success.  As studies like this show, it is the president who lives in a dream world while the rest of us toil away, barely getting by. 

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