Mesa County tumbled more than 30 spots in the latest ranking of how well small metropolitan areas create and sustain jobs and economic growth.
Illustrating the economic divide between the Western Slope and Front Range of Colorado, four other Colorado cities ranked among the top 20 large metro areas in the ranking.
Mesa County fell from 50th to 83rd among 179 small metro areas ranked in the 2013 Milken Institute Index of Best-Performing Cities.
The index combines measures of job, wage and economic growth as well as the economic output of high-tech companies. The Milken Institute, a nonprofit think tank in California, promotes economic and policy solutions that create jobs, improve access to capital and enhance health.
Mesa County has ranked as high as third in the index on the strength of what was during the natural gas production boom that preceded the bust one of the fastest growing labor markets and economies in country.
But Mesa County has fared far less well in the aftermath of downturns in both regional energy production and the broader economy. Mesa County dropped to 117th in the index in 2011 before rebounding to 50th in 2012.
In the latest index results, Mesa County ranks highest among small metro areas at 43rd for five-year wage and salary growth compared to the national average between 2006 and 2011 and 51st for one-year wage and salary growth compared to the national average between 2010 and 2011.
Mesa County ranked 66th for one-year job growth compared to the national average between 2011 and 2012 and 113th for five-year job growth compared to the national average between 2007 and 2012.
Mesa County ranked lower for two measures of the output of high-tech companies: 119th for five-year growth relative to the national average between 2007 and 2012 and 130th for one-year growth relative to the national average between 2011 and 2012.
Pueblo, the only other Colorado city ranked among small metro areas in the 2013 index, fell from 33rd to 72nd overall.
Among 179 large metropolitan areas ranked by the Milken Institute, Boulder came in highest among Colorado cities at ninth, up six spots from last year.
Greeley jumped 32 spots to 10th on the strength of job, wage and economic growth related in large part to oil exploration and production.
The Denver, Aurora and Broomfield metropolitan area climbed 15 spots to 15th in the latest index, while the Fort Collins and Loveland metro area fell eight spots to 20th. Colorado Springs fell 18 places to 75th.
Among small metro areas, Columbia, Mo., ranked first in the 2013 index, followed by Columbus, Ind.; Fargo and Bismark, N.D.; and Midland, Texas.
Among large metro areas, Austin, Texas, moved up a spot to first in the rankings, followed by Provo, Utah; San Francisco; San Jose, Calif.; and Salt Lake City.