Investigative reporter Bill Dedman of msnbc.com
By Bill Dedman Investigative reporter
msnbc.com
updated 3/2/2010 7:31:51 AM ET 2010-03-02T12:31:51

Nearly half the metro areas in the U.S. began an economic recovery by the end of 2009, according to new Adversity Index data for December from Moody's Analytics and msnbc.com.

Major Market Indices

Out of 384 metro areas in the nation, 183 had begun to recover, or 48 percent, according to the December Adversity Index. That's up from 146 metro areas in November, or 38 percent.

You can follow the fortunes of each metro area in the nation on our interactive map .

Each month, the Adversity Index uses government data on employment, industrial production, housing starts and home prices to label each state and metro area as expanding, at risk of recession, in recession or recovering. The index was developed by msnbc.com and Moody's Analytics, which sells in-depth economic forecasts on metro areas.

"In recovery" doesn't mean that an area's economy is above where it was at the beginning of the recession, just that the area has begun to dig its way out of the hole.

A slightly larger group, 200 areas, still were in a "moderating recession" in December, meaning their economies were still shrinking but not so severely as earlier this year. In other words, the recession in general had slowed by December, but a slight majority of metro areas were still in a decline.

Only a single metro area was still spiraling downward in a full recession at the end of 2009: Las Vegas-Paradise.

Nevada was also the only state shown in a full recession, with 29 states in the "moderating recession" category, and 20 states plus the District of Columbia beginning a recovery, up from 16 a month earlier.

The states in recovery were Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

The new states on that list in December were Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

‘Play’ the index
Here are several ways to explore this month's Adversity Index:

  • Our interactive map shows the economic health of every state and metro area. You can "play" the map on this page to watch the economy's ups and downs over 15 years, or select any state to see data for each metro area for each month.
  • The updated index will be published every month at adversity.msnbc.com. There is a lag of about six weeks, so January data will be out later in March.
  • An explainer tells how the Adversity Index assesses the economy.

These were the metro areas that moved into the recovery category in December: Abilene, Texas; Anderson, S.C.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Anniston, Ala.; Asheville, N.C.; Athens, Ga.; Auburn, Ala.; Beaumont, Texas; Bowling Green, Ky.; Charleston, W.Va.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Columbia, Mo.; Denver, Colo.; Dothan, Ala.; Durham, N.C.; Florence, S.C.; Fort Collins, Colo.; Gadsden, Ala.; Greensboro, N.C.; Jonesboro, Ark.; Killeen, Texas; Lafayette, La.; Louisville, Ky.; Mankato, Minn.; Mansfield, Ohio; Midland, Texas; Montgomery, Ala.; Napa, Calif.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Peoria, Ill.; Port St. Lucie, Fla.; Raleigh, N.C.; Rockingham County, N.H.; Springfield, Ohio; Texarkana, Texas; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Washington, D.C.; Wilmington, N.C., and Youngstown, Ohio.

Most of the nation's biggest metro areas, including New York, Chicago, Miami and almost every city in California, were still listed "in recession" as of December.

No metro area yet is shown in "expansion," the most positive category; that label is triggered when a metro area's economy grows past its previous peak. Most of the recovering areas are far from that level.

Many areas include multiple counties, and many cross state lines. This list shows which counties are within each metro area.

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