Metro areas across the U.S. are seeing a glimmer of economic progress – but most still face a long, uphill climb toward a full recovery, according to a report released by IHS Global Insight as part of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ U.S. Metro Economies series.

The report was unveiled by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, at the organization’s 80th Winter Meeting, which is convening in Washington, DC.

“At the close of 2011, 125 cities and their metro areas had not seen any net job growth,” according to the report.  “By the end of last year, the economy as a whole had regained only 30 percent of jobs lost from the Great Recession.”

Forecasts for 2012 are more encouraging, with most metro economies projected to see job gains.  But the road will be a long one for many.  “For almost 80 percent of the metro areas, it will take more than five years to get back to pre-recession levels of employment.”

Not all cities are suffering; in fact, some are thriving.  Is yours one of them?  If your city has found a way to increase (maintain) its workforce and sustain its local economy, we’d love to hear from you!  Contact Mardee Alvaro, editor, and  share your story.  Your strategies for success may inspire other cities.

Perhaps the most startling finding of the report reflects the impact of the economic downturn on middle-class families:  “Median real income for U.S. households in 2010 was $49,455 – 7.1 percent lower than in 1999, when it was $53,252.”  The decrease was even greater for lower-income households.

Pointing a finger at the “inaction of Congress” over the past year, Villaraigosa said that progress can be made in 2012.  “When Congress returns to session, it must make a down payment on America’s economic future by investing in our cities.”

In a presentation to conference attendees, Mayor Villaraigosa set forth his policy recommendations for “putting America back to work.”  They include: increased investment in infrastructure jobs, an extension of the payroll tax cut, extended unemployment benefits, and strengthening communities with the help of federal grant programs.