Albany tops the list of “America’s Most Recession-Proof Cities” in this CNNMoney.com report, based on a recent Brookings Institute paper. So, does this mean New York’s Capital Region is a magnet for entrepreneurs and all-round private-sector dynamism? Uh, not exactly. It is, however, the home base of the only major state that has yet to significantly cut its budget, and its largest employer has increased base pay by more than 11 percent since March 2008. Even Albany’s main private-sector growth engine, the semi-conductor industry, has been goosed with billions in state subsidies.
Nine other cities in the top 20 are also state capitals. Seven more are in the south, including five (other than the state capital, Austin) in Texas, which has weathered the recession very well. And at #5 and #18, respectively, are … Buffalo and Rochester, NY. This is not as surprising as it may seem. These not-so-hot upstate metro areas tend to look good on rankings of post-recession economic indicators because (a) they never experienced a housing bubble, so their housing prices have remained relatively firm, and (b) they have low unemployment rates, because they have been losing population and don’t attract many new job seekers or foreign immigrants. Omaha, Nebraska also cracked the top 20, for similar reasons (no real estate bubble, to start with).
Number 21 on the “recession-proof” list: Washington, D.C.
Perhaps the main mystery about this list is that Washington wasn’t at the top of it.