Although every metropolitan area has suffered job losses and a decline in gross metropolitan product, city centers in Texas and Oklahoma, among others, look as if they will lead the way out of the recession.

Judged by changes in employment, GMP, and housing prices, none of the 20 strongest overall performers extends west of Albuquerque, New Mexico. California alone is home to seven of the 20 weakest performers.

There's a "last-in, first-out" effect here, says Alan Berube, a senior fellow and research director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and MetroMonitor report that assesses the nation's 100 largest metro areas. "This recession is battering the interior west, Florida, and the manufacturing parts of the Midwest." By comparison, areas that incurred softer recessionary blows are standing out as bright spots among the competition. The balance of the top 20 metro areas dot the Northeast, with the exceptions of Washington D.C. and Virginia Beach, Va. to the south.

All six large metropolitan areas in Texas – one of the few states where home prices are actually up -- are among the 20 top performers. Berube attributes the lone-star state's success to a combination of its insulation from the housing market crash and the industries that have taken root in major metropolitan areas there, such as energy.

Austin is increasingly becoming recognized as a high-tech hub says Robin Dommisse, CEO of Austin-based Austin GeoModeling, a company that provides 3-D geological interpretations to oil and gas companies. The technology industry, combined with an attractive environment and the University of Texas at Austin, Dommisse says, makes finding qualified employees easy. "There's a good talent pool available of highly-trained technical people," he says. "We never have a problem convincing people to move to Austin."

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