Baltimore ranked 19th among metro areas in 2005 on an important measure of economic activity - up one notch from the year before.
The numbers, released yesterday by the Commerce Department, represent the government's first-ever attempt to calculate gross domestic product for the country's 363 metropolitan areas. GDP is a tally of the value of goods and services produced.
The government warned that the numbers are "experimental," but it intends to continue producing them.
"There are many metropolitan areas that haven't seen an estimate of the size of their economy, and they don't have a clear picture of how their economy ranks," said Sharon Panek, chief of the section on GDP by state services at Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis. "The number of requests we've received over the years has been overwhelming."
The Baltimore metro area's GDP was nearly $120 billion in 2005, outpacing St. Louis, which ranked 19th in previous years, but far behind the nation's largest metro areas. New York, at about $1 trillion, was first; Los Angeles, second with about $630 billion; and Chicago, third with about $460 billion. Washington, with just under $350 billion in GDP, ranked fourth.
The top metro areas by GDP are also the top by population. Baltimore is 20th among metro areas by number of residents. But the Baltimore area's economy has grown more slowly than the average for metro areas in the past several years. GDP increased 2.8 percent here in 2005, compared with 3 percent for the nation's metro areas overall. The numbers are adjusted for inflation.
Richard P. Clinch, director of economic research at the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute, said Baltimore's growth was lower than he expected, but he noted its slower-than-average population growth is a key reason.
"It's largely a function of population growth," he said of GDP.
Some metro areas grew by leaps and bounds. GDP increased by more than 10 percent in parts of Florida, Washington state and Arizona, for instance.
But Clinch said Baltimore compared well with some of its Rust Belt peers, such as Detroit, Pittsburgh and Cleveland - which each grew by less than 1 percent. The ripple effect from Washington, which had growth of 5 percent, could help explain why.
"Being in the shadow of Washington isn't necessarily a bad thing," Clinch said.
The Commerce Department also released statistics showing how various industries contribute to metro areas' economic growth. In the Baltimore area, the education and health services sector and financial activities were key drivers, with each accounting for about 12 percent of the increase in 2005. About 9 percent of the growth came from construction.
But the department withheld data about one of Maryland's key sectors, professional and business services. It said it did so in cases where one business is so dominant that the numbers could reveal confidential information.
Top metro areas by gross domestic product, 2005:
1. New York: $1 trillion
2. Los Angeles: $630 billion
3. Chicago: $460 billion
4. Washington: $350 billion
5. Houston: $315 billion
6. Dallas: $315 billion
7. Philadelphia: $295 billion
8. San Francisco: $270 billion
9. Boston: $260 billion
10. Atlanta: $240 billion
11. Miami: $230 billion
12. Detroit: $200 billion
13. Seattle: $180 billion
14. Minneapolis: $170 billion
15. Phoenix: $160 billion
16. San Diego: $145 billion
17. Denver: $130 billion
18. San Jose: $125 billion
19. Baltimore: $120 billion
20. St. Louis: $115 billion
[ Source: Department of Commerce. Numbers are rounded.]