Published Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 9:14 am
World-Herald editorial: Omaha collects top ranking worth noting

To be sure, the last four years have been anything but easy.

The Great Recession has meant lost jobs, stagnant wages, declining equity for homeowners. There's been more than enough economic pain to go around.

So we won't pop the champagne corks just yet.

But residents of the Omaha area can feel positive about the way the metro region fared during the recession.

As World-Herald staff writer Henry Cordes reported Monday, the region weathered the severe economic downturn better than any other U.S. metropolitan area.

That's not hometown cheerleading. That analysis comes from the Brookings Institution, which analyzed the nation's 100 largest metro areas and their performance on several key economic factors — total jobs, the unemployment rate, output (gross domestic product) and housing values.

Omaha's 3.2 percent loss of jobs from its pre-recession peak to the recession's deepest trough was the seventh lowest in the country. Its 2.1 percentage point increase in unemployment rate was the smallest, and its 2.4 percent decline in GDP ranked ninth lowest. A 17.3 percent real decline in housing values through late 2012 was only the 21st best nationally, although other indicators suggest that the Omaha housing market is in recovery.

And the Great Plains, from the Midlands to Texas, did better overall than most other regions. Cities in Florida, Arizona and California took a much more severe beating, for example.

Economists and others interviewed by Cordes pointed to a number of the pragmatic, down-to-earth attributes this region had long been known for. That includes a diverse economic mix, with real strengths in finance, insurance, agriculture-related industry, transportation and health care, along with a generally conservative business climate that helped the region avoid the wild economic swings seen on the coasts.

With the slow recovery now under way, Omaha and other cities continue working to regain ground lost during the recession. Omaha's performance in that area is worth talking about, too, as it ranks seventh overall for recovery.

In the 21st-century economy, more than ever, a community needs to be flexible and adaptable, continually open to adjusting itself to meet challenges as they arise. Omaha has been doing a good job on that score, as the new ranking reflects; it needs to continue doing so.

While Omahans certainly felt the recession's pain, it is somewhat comforting to know that it could have been much worse. But we all have neighbors who still need opportunities and jobs.

So for now, we'll take this quick pat on the back and then get back to work.

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