Bringing the Economy Home

Boise’s Recovery Earns Strong Marks, But There’s A Catch

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Demand for new homes in the Boise area improved this year as existing home prices began to rise.

Boise earned sixth place in a recent ranking of cities’ economic recoveries, a strong finish that’s based largely on improvement in local home prices.

The Brookings Institution’s Metro Monitor sizes up the turnaround in the nation’s 100 largest metro areas based on four indicators: employment, unemployment, output and house prices.  It focuses on how much each city has improved from its low points in those areas.  The current report is based on the economy’s performance in the first three months of this year.

While Boise’s high overall  ranking is certainly good news, Brookings Policy Analyst Kenan Fikri cautions against giving it too much emphasis.

“Boise is more or less recovering on pace with the nation in employment, unemployment and output,” he explains.  In other words, it’s the fourth measure — house prices — that’s responsible for the city’s relative strength in the report.  “I don’t think you can say that Boise’s recovery is stronger than the rest of the country’s outside of that measure,” Fikri says.

The city ranks 77th out of 100 in terms of improvement in unemployment, and 66th in terms of improvement in gross metropolitan product.  In house prices, however, Boise is first. The city has shown more positive change in that indicator than any other city in the report.  But even that bright spot comes with a caveat.  That is: Boise house prices stand only 4.8 percent above their post-recession low point, and remain more than 40 percent below their 2006 peak.  Moreover, Boise’s house prices actually fell by .2 percent in the first quarter of this year, compared to the last quarter of 2011.

“This is what a recovery without momentum looks like,” Fikri says.  “It’s slow on all of these indicators, and it shows ups and downs.  Without a recovery that’s gaining steam, it’s really hard to experience measurable recovery.”


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