San Jose suffered as much as any large metro area during the recession, with the exception of Detroit, when the tech industry went through a horrendous downturn in business activity. Orders for hardware products, software, and the services offered by firms like EDS and HP fell sharply. Both businesses and individuals cut back tech spending. That tide has only just begun to change as online firms like Facebook and the smartphone business provided the tech sector with new sales.
It is a surprise that Detroit has a single millionaire, let alone over 90,000. Both the car industry and the large number of companies that supported it with parts, technology and components like tires all suffered as sales fell. GM and Chrysler went into bankruptcy. But the industry has begun an unexpected renaissance. GM and Ford are routinely the top two manufacturers of cars sold in the U.S. Each has cut costs enough to insure profitability. Michigan has offered tax incentives to bring new industries to the Detroit area, helping it become a modest center for small tech firms.
Houston’s millionaire population rose almost 10% between 2009 and last year — the highest among the ten largest cities. The oil and energy industries dominate the city’s business activity. The value of oil companies has soared along with profits. Crude traded for just over $50 a barrel at the beginning of 2009. Recently, that figure was close to $100. Houston is also headquarters to a number of companies that service the energy industry, the largest of which is Halliburton. This entire sector has rebounded along with the prices of oil and natural gas.
Boston’s economic foundations are education, health services and the financial industry. A number of the largest banks and investment companies in the U.S. are there. Many of these are huge and privately held like Fidelity Investments, which has 40,000 workers. The hospital and higher education sectors rely significantly on endowments. The value of those was hurt badly. Harvard’s endowment value dropped 22% in one four-month period in 2008. It has taken all of the last two years to get even a modest portion of that back.
Philadelphia’s services business was probably not hurt as badly as large industries such as automotive, tech and energy that are more common in other regions. The city is still a modest-sized financial center, but among the largest employers are “recession resistant” businesses like cable TV and enterprise services companies like Aramark. The city’s unemployment rate has been consistently below the national average.