Raleigh and its rival Austin are two of only four U.S. cities that rank in the top 50 among the world’s leading 300 metropolitan areas, says a new survey from the Brookings Institute.

The top 50 is dominated by Asian-Pacific cities.

Raleigh, which routinely ranks high on U.S.-focused lifts on a variety of subjects by Forbes magazine, placed 41st, based on several economic criteria: Gross domestic product growth, employment growth and an overall economic performance.

Job growth in the city vs. the U.S. overall drove the Raleigh showing. Among the cities surveyed, Raleigh tied for fifth place with a 4 percent improvement in 2014 from 2013, compared to the U.S. improvement of 1.6 percent. That percentage difference tied Raleigh with the Chinese city of Ningbo. (Edmonton, Canada, led at a growth rate of 4 percent vs. Canada’s overall growth of 0.6 percent.)

According to federal data, the Raleigh-Cary metropolitan area unemployment rate in November was 4.3 percent. 

The report says Raleigh’s improving job climate helped its GDP rise 0.8 percent.

Overall, however, the capital city’s economy ranked 112th over the years measured – from the recession of 2009 through 2014.

The report concludes that the impact of the recession linger, listing Raleigh as “partially recovered.”

Austin, the capital of Texas and a rival for Raleigh when it comes to attracting talent, jobs and companies, placed 39th and is rated as “recovered.”

Employment grew slightly lower than in Raleigh at 3.8 percent but its GDP was slightly higher at 3.6. Its overall performance ranked much higher than Raleigh at No. 65.

The other U.S. cities in the top 50 are Houston at 39 and Fresno, Calif. at 49.

Importance of these metros

The world’s leading cities are crucial to global economic health, the survey notes. But there is a growing disparity among those, the authors of the report warn:

“The economic growth trajectories of the world’s major metropolitan areas continued to diverge in 2014, reflecting a still uncertain global
recovery. Many large metro economies are growing faster than their respective nations, drawing on concentrations of workers, firms,
and industrial clusters to spur gains in employment and living standards. Together, the 300 largest metropolitan areas accounted
for 47 percent of total global GDP in 2014.”

Asian-Pacific cities dominate

Top spot ion the survey went to Macau, the Chinese territory best known for its casino gambling. 

Cities in wealthy, developed countries tended to lag behind. Though most of the cities surveyed around the world have recovered from the Great Recession, 65 percent of European and 57 percent of North American cities have not, according to the study, which ranks cities by growth in employment and in economic output per person.

Some highlights, as reported by The Associated Press:

Big differences

Joseph Parilla, a Brookings research analyst who co-wrote the report, said he was surprised by the “incredible differentiation within what are considered monolithic economic blocs.” Latin American cities, for instance, mostly sputtered. But Medellin, Colombia, and Lima, Peru, both broke into the top 50.

Cities in wealthy countries tended to perform poorly. But U.S. and British cities showed improvement. Three U.S. cities — Austin and Houston, Texas, and Raleigh, North Carolina — cracked the top 50. In the United Kingdom, London came in No. 26, Manchester No. 60.

The United States and Britain have begun to pick up economic momentum 5½ years after the recession ended.

“In developed economies like North America and Western Europe, cities like London and Houston are flying high, while others like Rotterdam and Montreal are struggling,” Parilla said.

Inside China

Twenty-seven of the 50 top-performing cities were Chinese. Increasingly, strong growth occurred in the traditionally underdeveloped cities of China’s interior, rather than its booming coastal cities. Land-locked Changsha, for instance, enjoyed economic growth per person of 8.6 percent last year and wound up No. 15 in the overall rankings.

The coastal manufacturing powerhouse of Dongguan, next door to Hong Kong, registered per-capita economic growth of just 5.2 percent (unimpressive by Chinese standards) and finished No. 70. Companies have begun to move inland as the cost of labor and land rises on the Chinese coast. And the Chinese government has invested heavily on infrastructure in the interior.

Commodities boom

The 18 cities worldwide that specialized in producing commodities such as oil registered the highest rates of growth in economic output per person (2.6 percent) and employment (1.9 percent).

“The recent rise in oil and gas production in North America partly explains the success of metropolitan areas like Calgary, Denver, Houston, and Tulsa, which are epicenters of the region’s shale revolution,” the report said.

Next year’s rankings may be different. Oil prices have plunged to less than $48 a barrel from $107 a barrel last June, jeopardizing the prospects of cities that had been riding the energy boom.

Turkish delight

Four Turkish cities made the top 10: Izmir, Istanbul, Bursa and Ankara. Turkish cities boomed last year despite political unrest. “If you look at world headlines, Turkey is not in the news for its economic success, but it probably should be,” Brookings’ Parilla says. “It has pretty solid macroeconomic policies.”

Turkey benefits from its location at the boundary between Europe and Asia and from heavy investment in roads and other infrastructure projects, which creates jobs over the short term and is likely to make the economy more efficient over the long term.