For the past few months, reports have repeatedly affirmed that the economy is slowly improving. However, as one recent study highlights, some areas are recovering much faster than others. In fact, depending on where you live, the future may be bright ... or bleak.
Last week, CredAbility, a nonprofit credit counseling service, released the Consumer Distress Index, which cataloged the rates of economic recovery across America. Based on 65 surveys conducted by the federal government, private credit companies, and other groups, CredAbility's index analyzes employment, housing, credit, household budget and net worth statistics to determine which areas of the country are surging ahead and which are lagging behind.
Mark Cole, executive vice president and chief operations officer for CredAbility, notes that, while the country is recovering, "people at different levels are experiencing the recovery at very different speeds." This has been especially hard on the middle class: "The average family is still lagging behind," Cole says. "For them, it's been a slow, grinding recovery."
When it comes to individual states, CredAbility's survey paints an optimistic picture. In comparison to the last quarter of 2011, situations have improved across the country, and no states are classed as being in the lowest "Emergency Crisis" level. On the other hand, none garner the top rating of "Excellent, Secure," and only two achieve the B-level "Good, Stable" rating.
On the citywide level, the economic situation varies widely. Currently, CredAbility ranks the distress levels of America's 25 largest cities, and the company plans to extend its survey to the top 75 later this year. While their list has a few limitations -- for example, some states, like Nevada, don't have any cities in the top 25, while others have several -- it gives a glimpse of the best and worst metropolitan areas to live right now. For a look at the winners and losers, click on the gallery below.
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With low unemployment, the nation's capital -- along with its economically secure suburbs in northern Virginia -- is currently the best-situated city economically.
While unemployment remains high, stabilized household budgets and solid credit are helping Boston weather the storm.
In Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington, Minn., things are looking up. Credit is slowly rising, while household budgets and housing markets are steadily improving.
Historically, Hawaii has been one of the more stable states in the union economically, and it never suffered the dire declines that some areas did during the Great Recession. Today, credit, unemployment and housing in Honolulu have all returned to reasonably healthy levels.
Late in 2011, household budgets in Dallas made a sharp turnaround. Paired with a solid credit rating and a slowly improving housing level, things there are looking bright.
Houston's unemployment, housing, and net worth have all turned the corner recently, and its credit rating is slowly improving, suggesting that Texas' biggest city may have a bright future.
Several of Denver's economic indicators -- including net worth, credit and employment -- are trending slightly downward, but a strong improvement in household budgets and a slight improvement in housing both suggest that things may be looking good for the Mile-High City.
Despite taking a slight downward turn, New York's credit levels remain among the highest in the country, and its household budgets are steadily rising. On the other hand, stagnation in its net worth and housing levels, paired with rising unemployment, suggest that the future may be a little shaky for the city that never sleeps.
While its ratings aren't quite as impressive as those of other top 10 cities, almost all of them have been slowly going up in the last few months. In other words, don't let it's relatively low rating confuse you: Pittsburgh's future could be promising.
Another metropolitan area whose statistics don't tell the whole story, Kansas City's relatively low rating disguises the fact that "Paris of the Plains" is climbing out of the hole that the Great Recession plunged it into.
In many ways, Philadelphia's position is slowly improving. Unfortunately, however, Pennsylvania's largest city has a deep hole to crawl out of.
A slightly improved housing situation is the sole shining light in Chicago's economic indicators. As for the rest, they are all trending downward.
With an aggregate economic score that is almost 10 points behind frontrunner Washington D.C., St. Louis is struggling to improve its post-recession circumstances.
Several of Cleveland's indicators are trending slightly upward, and its household budgets are undergoing a sharp rise. Unfortunately, with relatively low scores across the board and a falling employment rate, it looks like a tough haul lies ahead.
While its credit, employment and net worth levels are slightly down, San Diego is doing relatively well. Unfortunately, like much of California, it was particularly hard hit by the recession and faces a difficult path back to economic stability.
With the worst employment score of any major city, Los Angeles' continues to reel from the recession.
While its credit and household budget indicators look promising, Atlanta's housing and employment remain at crisis levels.
With employment and housing sharply improving, the future should be bright for Miami. However, those rates remain among the worst of any metropolitan area in the country.
Detroit was struggling before the recession, and continued crisis-level unemployment and housing suggest that the struggle is far from over.
Unemployment is slowly trending upward in Tampa, but housing continues to head south -- it has the second-worst score of any major city.