Special Report

Ten Cities Crushed by the Global Recession

5. Sacramento, U.S.
> Change in employment (2010-2011): -1%
> Change in income (2010-2011): -0.8%
> Population: 2.18 million
> Income per capita: $42,283
> GDP: $92 billion

The second American city on this list, the slowest-growing city in North America is not Detroit or Cleveland, but Sacramento, Calif. Sacramento grew rapidly in the prerecession years, growing employment at nearly double the level of the rest of the country. The city’s growth was partly due to the of the hundreds of thousands of residents that moved from the neighboring San Francisco region. According to the Brookings report, “60 percent of the decline in employment [in the city] originated in local/non-market services, of which government employment accounts for about half.” Like Richmond, Sacramento has a substantial population of government workers, which, due to regional austerity measures, were one of the hardest hit labor forces in the past few years. More than one in four nonfarm jobs in the region are public servants.

4. Seville, Spain
> Change in employment (2010 – 2011): -2%
> Change in income (2010 – 2011): -0.3%
> Population: 1.86 million
> Income per capita: $20,166
> GDP: $38 billion

Seville is the fourth and final Spanish city on this list. When the four largest cities in a country are among the world’s slowest growing metropolitan regions, it is a sure sign the country faces long-term economic troubles. Between 1993 and 2007, Seville’s employment was increasing at a rate of 3% each year. During the same period, income was increasing by 2.7% per year. Between 2008 and 2009, employment dropped an astounding 8.1%, while income dropped 5.5%. Between 2009 and 2010, employment dropped an additional 2.4%, while income fell 1.2%.

3. Dublin, Ireland
> Change in employment (2010 – 2011): -3%
> Change in income (2010 – 2011): -0.3%
> Population: 1.72 million
> Income per capita: $55,578
> GDP: $95 billion

In the years leading up to the recession, Ireland was considered Europe’s biggest success story. The country was attracting more new companies than anywhere else in Europe. Between 1993 and 2007, employment was climbing at 4.3% per year, and median income increasing at 5.6% per year. Both of these were the highest growth rates in Europe. Ireland’s housing market was one of the cornerstones of its stellar growth. And, like in the U.S., its housing market was hit particularly hard when the global economic crisis began. Besides the cities in Spain and Italy, Dublin was of the only metropolitan regions still in full-blown recession between 2009 and 2010, with income dropping 1.8% and employment falling a world-worst 4%.

2. Lisbon, Portugal
> Change in employment (2010 – 2011): -2.4%
> Change in income (2010 – 2011): -2.8%
> Population: 2.84 million
> Income per capita: $24,194
> GDP: $69 billion

After Greece, many believe Portugal is next in the eurozone to reach crisis level. In the years leading up to the global recession, Lisbon’s employment levels were increasing at a modest 0.8% per year compared to other large cities. But its bust was among the worst. According to the Brookings report, the capital city currently has the second-worst declining metropolitan economy in the world. The report states: “Similar to Dublin and Athens, Lisbon’s economy suffers because of poor national and regional macroeconomic conditions. Unable to finance its budget deficit on commercial financial markets, Portugal sought and obtained a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.” The deal with the IMF required strict austerity measures, which further exacerbated the metro region’s — and the country’s — already stagnating economy.

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1. Athens, Greece
> Change in employment (2010 – 2011): -3.5%
> Change in income (2010 – 2011): -4.8%
> Population: 4.14 million
> Income per capita: $24,585
> GDP: $102 billion

According to the Brookings report, the bottom performer among the world’s largest cities is Athens — ground zero in the still unfolding European fiscal crisis. Even after an international bailout and continued austerity measures, Greece remains on the verge of an economic collapse not seen in half a century. Recently, talks on a potential restructuring of the country’s debt stalled. Without an agreement, catastrophe seems all but inevitable. In the past two years, income has declined more than 10%. Between 2009 and 2010, income fell 6%. Between 2010 and 2011, it fell an additional 4.7% — the worst in the world. During that time employment also declined by 3.5% — also the world’s worst.

Michael B. Sauter and Ashley C. Allen

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