by Tim Mullaney, USATODAY.com
More than half of all U.S. metro areas won't regain the jobs lost in the recession until the second half of 2015 or later, an analysis for the U.S. Conference of Mayors says.
Macon lost 7,700 jobs during the recession and has recovered 96 percent of those jobs.
INTERACTIVE: When Job Recovery is Expected in U.S. Cities
The area is expected to hit peak employment level in the first quarter of 2017, according to USATODAY's interactive map and IHS Global Inisght Analysis for U.S. Conference of Mayors.
The same map reports that Warner Robins has recouped 101 percent of their jobs from the recession as the military community lost 500 jobs.
Less than a third of U.S. cities and their surrounding suburbs have recovered all the jobs lost since the arrival of the financial crisis. Of 363 U.S. metros, 98 now have more workers than at their pre-recession peak, with an additional 11 slated to join them by the end of the year, according to projections by IHS Global Insight, which compiled the data.
Sixty-one metros won't see a full recovery until 2021 or later.
INTERACTIVE: Where the Jobs Are
The data highlight how slowly most of the U.S. continues to recover from the economic crisis, said Bob Tomarelli, regional economist at IHS. Cities that recouped jobs fastest typically had universities or health care industry concentrations, major federal-agency or military employers, or exploited newly commercialized shale oil and gas, he said.
"The biggest takeaway is that you still have a large number of metropolitan areas that have not gotten back to pre-recession levels,'' Tomarelli said. "It's not a great environment. It's improving but it's very slow."
The recession started in December 2007 and ended four years ago this month.
Nationwide, the 135.1 million U.S. jobs during this year's first quarter are still 2.9 million below the peak, reached in early 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The nation's unemployment rate has jumped to 7.6% from an average of 5% during 2008's first quarter.
Two dozen cities, including major metro areas such as New York, have scrambled back to pre-recession employment levels in the last six to nine months, the report shows.
San Jose, New York, Denver, Indianapolis and Durham, N.C., all recovered to pre-recession employment levels as of the first quarter. Boston and Baltimore got there during the fourth quarter of 2012.
"As long as we have anyone unemployed, we're going to be working hard, but we're making progress,'' said Deron Kintner, deputy mayor for economic development in Indianapolis. He credited stable taxes, aggressive business recruiting and the city's presence in the health care industry for rekindling growth.
Many areas that will recover jobs most slowly had especially severe booms and busts in housing, and others lost large numbers of hard-to-replace manufacturing jobs, Tomarelli said. Even if manufacturing companies regain pre-recession stock prices and profitability, they are unlikely to employ as many U.S. workers as before, he said.
The housing bust will hurt areas such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas, which won't recover all of their lost jobs until 2017, in Tomarelli's forecast. Tallahassee won't recover all of its jobs until 2019, but still has 5.6% regional unemployment, well below the national average, thanks to 30,000 or more government jobs, including Florida State University workers, Mayor John Marks said.
"We're going to be fully employed within the next year or two," he said.
Manufacturing losses will hurt cities such as Detroit and Flint, Mich., which are among 50-plus areas not expected to recover all of their lost jobs by 2023, the analysis says.
Manufacturing has also been a major issue in smaller cities. In Florence, S.C., an area IHS says won't get back to peak employment until 2019, unemployment reached 13% in 2010 and has recovered to 8.5% in April as companies such as Johnson Controls and Honda expanded locally.
"2009 and 2010 were some hard damn years,'' Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela said.
13WMAZ's Jacqueline Harnevious contributed to this story.