In our recent ranking of the economies of US metropolitan areas, we used five measures of economic health. We ranked the 354 metropolitan statistical areas for which all five measures were available, and then averaged those rankings together to make a composite score.
Here are the five measures and their sources:
- Unemployment rate, December 2014: This key measure of the health of a city’s labour market is released every month by the Bureau of Labour Statistics’ Local Area Unemployment Statistics program.
- Gross Domestic Product per capita, 2013: The Bureau of Economic Analysis publishes annual estimates of GDP for metropolitan statistical areas, and we combined the BEA figures with Census Bureau 2013 population estimates to find per-person GDP for each MSA.
- Change in housing prices, Q4 2013 — Q4 2014: The Federal Housing Finance Agency publishes quarterly indexes of house prices in metropolitan areas and divisions.
- Average weekly wages, Q2 2014: Wage figures came from the Bureau of Labour Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.
- Poverty Rate, 2013: The American Community Survey, an annual survey run by the Census Bureau that measures a wide variety of aspects of American life, includes poverty rates for metropolitan areas.
For a little more detail on the workings of a metropolitan area’s economy, we also looked at Fortune 500 companies with headquarters in or around the cities we looked at (coming from a very helpful downloadable list compiled by GeoLounge) and what industries had a large or disproportionate share of each metro area’s employment, based on the above mentioned Q2 2014 Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.