US “knowledge economy” cities more resilient in face of jobs crisis

Cities with a higher share of knowledge workers and stronger artistic and cultural sectors appear to be weathering the US economic crisis better than cities without those qualities, according to new research by urbanist Richard Florida.

The study is a useful backdrop to last week’s release of Vancouver’s Economic Development Strategy, which focuses on those areas as well as support for key economic infrastructure like the port. BC Business Council chief economist Jock Finlayson said the Vancouver plan, released by Mayor Gregor Robertson “makes sense” and touches the right bases.

The US jobless numbers are staggering in some areas — up to 30 percent in El Centro, Calif., but very low in other agricultural centres like Lincoln, Neb. When Florida ran the numbers, he concluded:

Several factors are key to regional resilience, according to our analysis, among them the number of college graduates in a given population. Human capital is negatively associated with both the level of unemployment and its increase over time.

So too is the level of regional innovation, measured as patents. Metros with higher levels of knowledge workers and greater concentrations of artistic and cultural creatives also experienced lower levels of unemployment.

Not surprisingly, unemployment is associated not only with lower metropolitan incomes but with lower levels of happiness and subjective well-being.