Omaha ranked a little behind New York and Tokyo and just ahead of Berlin and London in a study of economic growth in the world's largest metropolitan areas.
The annual report by the Brookings Institution placed Omaha near the middle of the pack — 164th out of 300 — in a ranking of how much the local economy has improved or declined in the past year.
Des Moines was just below Omaha, with an overall ranking of 165th.
Brookings said the global economic recovery has slowed this year.
“After a weak 2011, many hoped for stabilizing global growth in 2012 and accelerating growth in future years,” the report said. “As the year progressed, however, the chances of this scenario grew dim.”
In the United States, Brookings said, most large metropolitan areas are still struggling to recover from the recent recession. That includes Omaha, which the report classified as being in “partial recession.”
In 2012 Omaha has seen employment gains that exceed the U.S. growth rate. But per-capita income in Omaha has declined slightly, which is worse than the national picture. Des Moines gained in both areas but lags the nation in each.
Scott Strain, an economist with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, questioned whether the growth projections used in the Brookings report accurately reflect the health of the Omaha economy. He said Omaha's actual data this year show increased sales, a solid housing market and rising employment.
“At the end of the day, we're going to see stronger growth than what's reflected in the report,” Strain said.
Strain also noted that Omaha didn't lose as much ground as other cities during the recession, which may be why its rebound hasn't been as large.
This is the third year that Brookings, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., has analyzed metropolitan economic conditions as a way to track global growth trends. The 300 largest metro areas are hubs for the world's economy, accounting for about half of gross domestic product (GDP) even though they contain only 19 percent of population.
The report showed substantial differences among cities.
Asian cities dominated this year's rankings of the largest metro economic gains. The top city was Macau, a former Portuguese colony on China's southern coast that is one of two special administrative regions in China. Macau's per-capita income rose by 5.1 percent in 2012, while employment climbed 5.7 percent.
Of the top 30 growth cities in the Brookings study, another 22 besides Macau were in mainland China.
The top U.S. metro area in the Brookings economic growth index was Houston, which ranked 40th in the world. But even that city still has not returned to its 2007 economic levels in both employment and income levels, according to the Brookings report.
In fact, only three of 76 U.S. cities have done so: Dallas; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Pittsburgh.
The city that lost the most ground was Athens, which suffered amid Greece's financial crisis. Per-capita income in Athens dropped 5.1 percent, and employment plunged 6.9 percent.
Numerous cities in Spain, which like Greece is struggling with excessive debt, ranked at the bottom of the Brookings index.
Albuquerque, N.M., was the worst U.S. city, with a ranking of 282nd.
Many of the cities in the Brookings study are much larger than Omaha, which has an estimated metro population of 888,000 in the report. Omaha would have looked better if compared only with cities of similar size.
For example, among the 34 cities with populations that are within 200,000 residents of Omaha's metro population, 22 had weaker economic growth.
Brookings' previous report looked at 200 metro areas, making it difficult to compare those rankings with the larger current batch. For 2011, Omaha had ranked 131st of the 200 metro areas studied, while Des Moines was 172nd.
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Income and employment percentages represent the change from 2011 to 2012.
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