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In President Obama's Chicago, one of the metro areas with very weak economic growth in new economic data, job seekers listen in 2009 to a recruiter during a job fair held by the City Colleges of Chicago.
The limping gait of the U.S. economy remains painful for many Americans and for President Barack Obama's re-election chances, with the vast majority of metro areas making only small, halting steps toward recovery, according to the latest Adversity Index data from Moody’s Analytics and msnbc.com.
Data released this week and included in the index, which measures changes in jobs, housing starts, industrial production and house prices, reflect changes in the economy through April.
The good news: The economy improved in April in every region of the country. Not a single state remains in recession. If someone in your family is out of work, that label may require a bit of clarification: While many have not recovered the jobs lost in the recession, no state is still in a sharp decline. In other words, one can be climbing out of a hole and still be in the hole. And looking more closely at the nation's 384 metro areas, nearly 90 percent have moved out of the recession into at least a modest recovery. The share of metro areas in recession in April was the lowest since the previous July.
The bad news: Only two states have entered a robust economic expansion. Among metro areas, only 6 percent are in expansion. The rest are stuck in a weak recovery, making small advances and not gaining much economic traction.
Four years earlier, at the same point in President George W. Bush's second term, 19 states had expanding economies. That number fell rapidly to only one by the time of the 2008 election, when Obama defeated Republican Sen. John McCain, and was at zero just a month after his inauguration. In the three-plus years of the Obama administration, only Alaska and North Dakota have accelerated into a full recovery, and no one expects either of those two Republican states to vote for Obama in 2012.
Check your state or metro area
The Adversity Index is calculated by Moody's Analytics based on a design developed with msnbc.com. It places each area in one of five economic categories: Expansion is the best, recession the worst, and in the middle are three transition categories.
You can see the economic status of each state or metro area on an interactive map from Moody's Analytics. Here's the link for free access through a Moody's partnership with msnbc.com.
A slow recovery
"Although April regional data appeared favorable for continued recovery, more recent national data have been soft," reported economist Brent Campbell at Moody's Analytics. "May payroll employment came in below expectations, and the forecast has been revised lower. As a result, risk levels could rise for metro area and state economies in coming months."
Here's a snapshot from the April data:
- 2 states are in a steady expansion: Alaska, North Dakota.
- 5 are at risk, meaning they're still in positive territory but slipping toward recession: Illinois, Maine, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Wisconsin.
- The remaining 44 (including D.C.) are in recovery, meaning they're still weak but rising toward expansion. The states improving into this category in April were Alabama, Connecticut, Missouri, Oregon and South Carolina, according to Moody's.
- 0 are in a moderating recession, meaning their economies are not contracting as severely as six months earlier.
- 0 are in an unrelenting recession. It's been that way since January. The last state out was Georgia.
- 21 metro areas are in a steady expansion: Amarillo, Texas; Anchorage, Alaska; Austin, Texas; Bismarck, N.D.; Burlington, Vt.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Clarksville, Tenn.; Columbia, Mo.; Columbus, Ind.; Dubuque, Iowa; Fargo, N.D.; Grand Forks, N.D.; Holland, Mich.; Lafayette, Ind.; Lafayette, La.; Lubbock, Texas; McAllen, Texas; Midland, Texas; Odessa, Texas; Sioux City, Iowa; Waterloo, Iowa.
- 76 are at risk, meaning they're still in positive territory but slipping toward recession. That's the fewest since September 2010, Moody's reported. They are Abilene, Texas; Akron, Ohio; Alexandria, La.; Auburn, Ala.; Augusta, Ga.; Bangor, Maine; Battle Creek, Mich.; Beaumont, Texas; Bloomington, Ind.; Bloomington, Ill.; Bridgeport, Conn.; Brunswick, Ga.; Chicago, Ill.; Chico, Calif.; Cleveland, Ohio; College Station, Texas; Columbus, Ga.; Columbus, Ohio; Danville, Ill.; Decatur, Ala.; Eau Claire, Wisc.; Elizabethtown, Ky.; Eugene, Ore.; Farmington, N.M.; Flagstaff, Ariz.; Florence, Ala.; Fond du Lac, Wisc.; Gainesville, Fla.; Great Falls, Mont.; Greeley, Colo.; Ithaca, N.Y.; Kennewick, Wash.; La Crosse, Wisc.; Lake Charles, La.; Lake County, Ill.; Lancaster, Pa.; Las Cruces, N.M.; Lebanon, Pa.; Lewiston, Maine; Los Angeles, Calif.; Madison, Wisc.; Mansfield, Ohio; Merced, Calif.; Michigan City, Ind.; Milwaukee, Wisc.; Monroe, Mich.; Morristown, Tenn.; Mount Vernon, Wash.; Muncie, Ind.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Naples, Fla.; North Port, Fla.; Olympia, Wash.; Owensboro, Ky.; Panama City, Fla.; Pensacola, Fla.; Pittsfield, Mass.; Port St. Lucie, Fla.; Portland, Maine; Providence, R.I.; Punta Gorda, Fla.; Richmond, Va.; Saginaw, Mich.; Sandusky, Ohio; Santa Rosa, Calif.; Sheboygan, Wisc.; Springfield, Ill.; Sumter, S.C.; Virginia Beach, Va.; Waco, Texas; Warner Robins, Ga.; Wausau, Wisc.; Wenatchee, Wash.; Wichita Falls, Texas; Wilmington, N.C.; Yakima, Wash.
- The largest group, the 242 metro areas not named here, are in recovery, meaning they're still weak but rising toward expansion.
- 31 are in a moderating recession, meaning their economies are not contracting as severely as six months earlier: Albuquerque, N.M.; Anderson, Ind.; Anderson, S.C.; Anniston, Ala.; Bremerton, Wash.; Carson City, Nev.; Cleveland, Tenn.; Dalton, Ga.; El Centro, Calif.; Jackson, Tenn.; Lake Havasu, Ariz.; Lakeland, Fla.; Lewiston, Idaho; Longview, Wash.; Madera, Calif.; Missoula, Mont.; Modesto, Calif.; Ocala, Fla.; Palm Bay, Fla.; Palm Coast, Fla.; Pine Bluff, Ark.; Prescott, Ariz.; Racine, Wisc.; Rocky Mount, N.C.; Rome, Ga.; Salem, Ore.; Tallahassee, Fla.; Visalia, Calif.; Youngstown, Ohio; Yuba City, Calif.; Yuma, Ariz.
- 14 are in an unrelenting recession: Albany, Ga.; Champaign, Ill.; Dothan, Ala.; Elmira, N.Y.; Fort Smith, Ark.; Gulfport, Miss.; Huntsville, Ala.; Lawton, Okla.; Montgomery, Ala.; Norwich, Conn.; Pascagoula, Miss.; Pueblo, Colo.; Reno, N.V.; Spokane, Wash.
About the Adversity Index
The index is based on changes in employment, housing starts, industrial production and house prices. Each geographic area is judged to be in recession, at risk of recession, recovering from recession, or expanding. More about the index is at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29866676/ns/us_news-the_elkhart_project/t/how-adversity-index-detects-trends-local-economies/.
For an area to be deemed in recession, the six-month moving average of the index is lower than it was six months earlier. To be deemed in expansion, the opposite is true. The categories "at risk" and "recovery" are transition stages: At risk indicates that the economy is slipping from expansion toward recession, while recovery indicates movement from recession toward expansion.