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The Intermountain West exemplifies the peculiarities of the Great Recession and its subsequently fragile and protracted recovery. Where pre-recession growth in employment and housing prices was fastest, employment losses and housing price declines have been the most severe—in Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Boise most starkly. The profundity of the recession and sluggishness of the recovery have ensured that no metro in the region escaped unscathed, however, and in the second quarter even the best performers fell on some indicators. Perhaps most significantly for the region, housing prices are unlikely to keep falling much further. An analysis by Howard Wial and Richard Shearer for this quarter’s MetroMonitor has found that housing prices are now under-valued in most large metropolitan areas, including nine out of the 10 large Intermountain West metros.1 Their model, however, may not pick up the effects of increasing foreclosures, which could continue to drag prices down. With that caveat, an eventual increase in housing prices—if and when the market settles back in line with economic fundamentals—should have a number of positive effects on the balance sheets of banks and home owners. In retrospect, it is clear when looking across metropolitan area economies with unusual reliance on highly cyclical industries—like housing and tourism—places them at greater risk of experiencing a more wrenching recession than others. And hence the origins of much of the region’s anxiety: structural changes cannot happen overnight, and jobs are needed immediately. This version of the Mountain Monitor covers data through the second quarter of 2010. The report documents and analyzes recession indicators for this new American heartland, the Intermountain West, as a companion to Brookings’ national MetroMonitor. The Mountain Monitor is produced by Brookings Mountain West, a partnership between the Brookings Institution and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. This latest Monitor sheds light on another variegated and ambiguous quarter. Those looking for assurances to either start investing or retrench for a double-dip cannot find clear signals in these data.


Arizona – Phoenix; Business cycles; Economic development; Economic history; Housing – Prices; Idaho – Boise; Metropolitan areas; Nevada – Las Vegas; Recessions; West (U.S)


Economics | Political Science | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology | Urban Studies and Planning