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To Track the Nation’s Sluggish Recovery the MetroMonitor Goes Interactive

Brookings’ MetroMonitor has been, we hope, a steady witness over the past three years, tracking the downs and ups and back-down-agains of economic recession and recovery across the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas each quarter.   The story hasn’t often been one of breakthroughs but it has been revealing about the nature of the nation’s sluggish recovery and the extensive variation among the nation’s diverse metro areas. 

Now, though, the Monitor has morphed. To celebrate its third anniversary, the Monitor has today shed the text-based format of its youth and reemerged as a fully overhauled, web-based interactive tool containing data through the first quarter of 2012. Live this morning, the new tool provides more comprehensive data and richer visualizations of each metropolitan area’s economic recovery than previously. 

Despite its new look, the basic analysis remains the same.  It still tracks recovery performance across four indicators: employment, unemployment, output (gross metropolitan product or GMP), and house prices.   And it still ranks metro recoveries against each other across those four economic indicators as well as on an index of overall performance. 

But the new tool dives even deeper into the dynamics of recovery to provide detail on trends within the industries that are driving the top-line stories. It also presents a complete snapshot of the Monitor’s fourcore indicators, depiciting the pre-recession, recession, and recovery phases of each.  

There are other improvements. The interactive dot-map on the national view shows the quintile ranking of each of the nation’s major metro areas across the four indicators and index of overall recovery. Users can click on the map or select from a dropdown list to navigate to individual metro area profiles featuring detailed recovery data for each.  The table with metro area industry trends over the past quarter and past year can be sorted and users can hover over any data point to see it placed in the national context.

Meanwhile, indicator-themed tiles along the bottom of each metro area profile contain growth curves that display quarter to quarter changes that are compared against national trend lines. The charts also enable users to pinpoint peaks and troughs in employment, unemployment, output, and house prices. To complete the analysis, each tile reports four crucial statistics: change in the indicator value over the current quarter, the previous quarter, since the recession ended, and since the economy peaked pre-recession.  (Check out Detroit’s profile, for example, here). Each one of these metro area profiles can be linked to directly by copying the URL.

Additionally, we’ve transitioned to seasonally adjusted unemployment data to better establish peaks and troughs, and improved house price and output data to better account for the effects of inflation. 

In short, the MetroMonitor has been thoroughly updated to provide smart metro-watchers more data, and better presentation, in ways that allow much more engagement with the trends.