By all indications, the Syracuse area economy is actually holding up fairly well in these recessionary times. A quarterly report from The Brookings Institution called the MetroTimes ranked Syracuse among the 40 strongest metro areas in the nation. The Syracuse area includes Onondaga, Oswego, and Madison counties.

The housing market was a main reason for the region’s ranking. The Syracuse area has the fewest number of foreclosures, and is actually the only metropolitan city in the state that’s showing a positive housing start figure, sitting around 54% at the end of April. Unemployment in the Syracuse area also dropped .4% in the first quarter of the year, while the rest of the country went up fairly drastically. The figure is starting to go up in the second quarter, and at 8% it’s much higher than the 5.2% it was sitting at last year, but by comparison it’s a great number.

This begs the question; why is Syracuse doing so well as compared to other cities. There aren’t a lot of reasons, but those reasons will skew figures.

One of the reasons is that the bulk of job losses in the area actually occurred many years ago, when many manufacturers left the state because of high taxes. So, when this recession hit, most of the possible jobs that could have been lost were already gone.

Two, the city of Syracuse itself hasn’t had much home building in decades. Most of the building has taken place in the suburbs, which are showing drastic growth against the pattern of the city of Syracuse losing residents. The city of Clay, which didn’t use to be classified as a city, is one of the fastest growing communities in the state. Clay and Cicero are leading the way in new homes, as more and more people are less reluctant to move a little further away from the city because of easy access to a highway to get back into the city.

Three, overall housing prices in the Syracuse area have always been lower than all the other metropolitan areas in the state, so they really didn’t have all that much of a margin to fall if there had been a big decline in the housing market, which didn’t happen anyway since there were almost no floating mortgage rates in the area, if any. Most people who lost their homes couldn’t pay the mortgage for other reasons.

In other words, it’s not that the Syracuse area showed a heck of a lot of growth; it just showed a heck of a lot less hurt. Still, it’s not such a bad model for other metropolitan cities to look at as they hope to recover from this recession.