Brookings: Stockton ranks 37th in the country for recovery performance

Good economic news is tough to find these days in Stockton. Unemployment, while receding, remains excruciatingly high, the housing industry is stagnant, and, lest we forget, the city is trudging its way through bankruptcy. Judging by these factors, Stockton is mired squarely in the doldrums, so much so that our Bakersfield neighbors to the south even considered holding an “our city isn’t bankrupt” themed promotion for the hockey team (sidenote: despite the Thunder’s lack of frat boy antics and giveaways, Stockton Arena has always averaged more fans per game for hockey than Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena). Times are bad, and outside news organizations love to portray Stockton as falling faster into decline. However, while the headlines are grim, economic indicators suggest that Stockton is not as bad off as we probably all think, especially considering how hard the recession hit us.  

The Brookings Institution puts out a quarterly report called the Metro Monitor detailing the extent to which cities have recovered from the recession. The monitor uses a handful of key economic indicators–  total employment, unemployment, total output (gross product), and house prices— capturing the change from each metro area’s low point to the most recent quarter of available data. Using prerecession years as a baseline, Brookings uses the data to determine which cities are recovering fastest, and which industries are leading the way to recovery.

In the most recent report, Stockton ranks 37th in the country out of the top 100 metro regions for recovery performance. By comparison, Sacramento, Modesto and Fresno rank 85th, 86th and 87th, respectively. Specifically, Stockton ranks 12th in employment, 14th in housing price,* 39th in unemployment and 79th in gross metro output. Not bad, considering the bad rap the area gets.

Over the last four quarters, the manufacturing industry has led the recovery with a 10.1% increase in employment. Government was the only significant industry to see a decline in the last year, with .3% reduction.

Stockton’s economic output was fueled by the oil and gas sector (huh?) with a 12.4% increase over the past four quarters. Construction, Finance and Information all made big gains as well. The only industries to post losses were agriculture (surprising) and real estate (not surprising).

While these numbers are comforting, they don’t really mean much without perspective. Luckily, Brookins provides plenty of information on how these current numbers stack up with how cities were doing before the recession, and Stockton is clearly moving in the right direction. Stockton’s current level of employment is 92.7% of what it was compared to 2007, when employment was at its highest. Similarly, output is up to 93.8% of prerecession levels.

Stockton is slowly but surely crawling out of the ditch, which is encouraging. However, this information needs to be put into context. Brookings’ analysis is meant to measure the extent to which cities have recovered using prerecession data as a baseline, and Stockton wasn’t exactly an economic superstar before the housing bust. In our boom years, the unemployment rate was still high compared to other cities, hovering around 7% to 8%. Right now, an unemployment rate equal to the mid 2000s looks pretty good, but for a healthy economy, a city should have under 5% unemployment.

Nevertheless, the Stockton region appears to be in a better position to recover than many other areas. Several cities, particularly in the rust and frost belts, are struggling more mightily, according to the Brookings index. Facing rapid population loss and declining industry, these cities face an uphill battle when it comes to reviving their economies. Stockton, contrary to popular belief, appears to be headed in the right direction.

*87 metro areas are tied at 14th


Categories: Community Commentary

Author:David A. Garcia

David A. Garcia created SCL in March of 2012. Garcia is a Stockton native with a background in urban policy and planning, holding a Bachelor's Degree from UCLA as well as a Master's Degree in Public Policy from the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies. He currently serves as the Policy Director at the UC Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation. David was also COO at Ten Space, a real estate development firm focused exclusively on Downtown Stockton, and continues to advise on their projects. Prior to that, he worked three years as a researcher/analyst for a Congressional research agency in Washington, DC. The views expressed on this site are entirely of the author's

2 Comments on “Brookings: Stockton ranks 37th in the country for recovery performance”

  1. Jon Seisa
    September 28, 2012 at 2:57 am #

    Well, this certainly is very encouraging. So the bottom line focus extrapolated from the Brookings study appears to confirm the need for new employment opportunities, job creation, and new business and industry influx into the city.

    Crime will subsequently reduce as a result when the city’s tax base for expanded police protection and fire and emergency services are reinforced by a healthy economic regenesis that will increase tax revenues to pay for these direly needed services.

    I would certainly recommend the city leaders pursue an ambitious campaign to develop an incremental, comprehensive and long term plan to attract new industry, manufacturers, regional western corporate headquarters, regional eastern Pacific-Rim corporate headquarters and technology companies to the vicinity; and even consider international investors to shore up the Stockton regional economy, perhaps considering tapping EB-5 visa capital investment from Asia, Indonesia, Korea, India and China as an option.

    Here is some information I uncovered regarding the latter that I forwarded to Mayor Johnston at the start of the year, but received no response, perhaps due to the emerging and untimely bankruptcy crisis on the horizon. This form of foreign international/U.S. community investment will generate new jobs, attract new corporate regional headquarters, fund new real estate and redevelopment projects, finance new medical facilities, expand cultural venues, help augment costs for city amenities and services (i.e. police force and fire/paramedic emergency services, street maintenance and parks & recreation facilities), and finance infrastructural and public works projects. Consequently, as the talent pool for tech jobs increases along with hi-tech businesses, a higher caliber of educated and cultured citizen will be attracted to Stockton if the plan includes consideration of establishing exclusive amenities conducive for this demographic profile with their higher disposable income that will trickle down into lower income brackets and services within the community, thus uplifting the community as a whole.

    The following EB-5 visa capital investment site (and a complimentary site) and contact information is self-explanatory and features some timely nationwide seminars for 2012 that may be advantageous and prudent for someone in Stockton to investigate:




  1. Brookings: Stockton 17th in country for “recovery performance” « Stockton City Limits - December 20, 2012

    […] Metro Monitor update for December 2012, and the data for the Stockton region is mixed. As mentioned before on this site, Brookings uses employment, economic output and housing data to determine which cities are […]

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