New Research Shows Cities Still Working Through Recession and Recovery; Today’s Jobs Number Shows There’s More Work to be Done

March 9, 2012
Today's jobs numbers, while showing improvement, do not show sufficient enough growth to propel the nation to full economic recovery. The news comes as city leaders head to Washington this weekend to discuss the nation's tepid economic recovery. New research from the National League of Cities (NLC) shows that the nation still has a considerable way to go before the recovery will find its way into every community. 

In an NLC survey, city leaders report that individual families continue to feel the pain most acutely. In addition to the high unemployment numbers, residential property values are still down and in many cases have continued to drop (36% of cities). Demands by families for safety net services, such as local food banks, have increased significantly in the past year (31% of cities). 

Despite this, there are signs of some improvement. Mirroring the positive news at the national level, 57% of community leaders report modest improvements in unemployment and in the retail sector (57%). In the survey, which was sent to lead executives in cities, the data shows 45% of city leaders say that their commercial property vacancies are improving. Cities are also seeing modest gains in business permits/licenses with 43% saying that the situation is improving in their community. 

Cities derive their revenue from sales taxes, income taxes, and for the majority of cities, property taxes. As city revenues remain stagnant, it places a greater strain on cities when responding to the increased demands for city services. 

"Our latest numbers point to improving local economic conditions," said Christopher Hoene, director for the Center for Research & Innovation at the National League of Cities. He continued, "But, we're a long way from recovery. It's clear that cities and city residents will still be confronting the impacts of this past recession for a while longer." 

Evidence that cities are not out of the woods yet includes 39% reporting decreases in city personnel. Cities have been eliminating personnel since the summer of 2008 in order to balance budgets in response to the recession. 

"The unemployment numbers are nothing to cheer just yet," said Ted Ellis, mayor of Bluffton, IN and president of NLC. He continued, "Both the federal government and local officials need to find ways to partner that will lay down a framework to allow for local growth and to make the nation competitive for years to come." 

Mayor Ellis will join nearly 2,000 city leaders in Washington, DC, this weekend for the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference. During the conference, Ellis and other NLC leaders will meet with White House, Administration and Congressional leaders to discuss the role local governments are playing in rebuilding the nation's economy and what the federal government can do to help. 

The National League of Cities is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans.