Western states hit hardest by the housing crisis are feeling the greatest economic stress two years after the recession ended, according to The Associated Press's monthly analysis.
Depressed home prices and high rates of foreclosures have limited job growth in Arizona, California and Nevada. Meanwhile, a delayed housing bust and cuts in state government and construction jobs have led to rising unemployment in Idaho, Montana and Utah since the recession ended.
The easing of stress over the past two years was most felt in Midwestern states that have seen growth in manufacturing jobs, such as Indiana and Michigan. However, those states experienced a monthly jump in stress in May because many counties there were adversely affected by supply chain disruptions caused by the Japan crises.
The AP's Stress index calculates a score from 1 to 100 based on unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy rates. A higher score signifies more economic stress. Under a rough rule of thumb, a county is considered stressed when its score exceeds 11. By that standard, about a quarter of the nation's 3,141 counties were stressed in May, roughly the same as in April.
The average county Stress score in May was 9.7, the lowest level since April 2009. Slight declines in foreclosures and bankruptcies in May offset a tiny rise in the unemployment rate.