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Compared to what?

   Someone once made the mistake of asking humorist James Thurber "How's your wife?" His comeback: "Compared to what?"
   The non-humorists at The Brookings Institution take that approach to composing their quarterly Metro Monitor report, rating the economic health of the nation's 100 largest metro areas. Reluctant to designatePilot a No. 1 [or a No. 100] when they use so many disparate metrics to decide how the cities are doing, they just herd them into groups of 20.
   As reported in the Business Today section of The Buffalo News, Buffalo is in the second highest group:
- Buffalo among strongest metro areas
   “Overall, the story is relatively positive for Buffalo,” said Brookings research fellow Jennifer Vey. “While its unemployment rate has climbed during the recession, it’s lower than the national average, and the housing market is relatively stable. It demonstrates that its diversified economy has probably helped them through the recession.” 
  Brookings also has an ongoing Metro Monitor Web site and a separate report on the Great Lakes region.
   Some other newspapers made note of their communities' ranking in the Brookings report, with The Virginian-Pilot down Norfolk way making the biggest splash. In Alabama, The Chattanooga Times Free Press also has an it-could-be-worse angle. 
   Also: The Baltimore Sun, Dallas Morning NewsDes Moines Register, and, less happily, The Toledo Blade.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News   

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