Many U.S. Metro Areas Have Greater GDP than Entire Developed Nations

America’s largest metro economy—the New York area—produced 4 percent more economic output last year than the entire country of Canada.

The table and first map above help to put America’s ridiculously large $19.5 trillion economy (Gross Domestic Product in 2017) into perspective by comparing America’s 20 largest metro area economies in 2017 (based on data recently released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis) to the economies of entire countries with similar Gross Domestic Products in 2017 (International Monetary Fund data here via Wikipedia). Here are some interesting facts about the size of US metro area economies:

  1. America’s largest metro economy—the New York area—produced 4 percent more economic output last year ($1.72 trillion of GDP) than the entire country of Canada ($1.65 trillion of GDP), and the New York City metro area as a separate country would have been the 10th largest economy in the world behind No. 9 Italy in 2017 ($1.9 trillion GDP). Interestingly, to produce approximately the same amount of economic output requires a labor force of about 20 million in Canada (according to World Bank data here) roughly twice the size of NYC's labor force of about 10 million (according to BLS data here).
  2. The LA metro area, the second-largest US metro economy, produced just slightly less economic output ($1.04 trillion of GDP) in 2017 than the entire country of Mexico ($1.15 trillion of GDP), and LA would have been the 16th largest economy in the world last year as a separate country behind No. 15 Mexico. To produce roughly the same amount of GDP, the size of Mexico’s labor force (58 million) is almost seven times greater than the LA metro’s labor force of 6.7 million.
  3. Chicago’s economy is America’s third-largest metro economy and in 2017 (GDP of $680 billion) was almost the same size ($680 billion in GDP) as Switzerland’s GDP of $679 billion. It would have ranked as the 20th largest national economy in the world last year.
  4. America’s three largest metro areas (NYC, LA, and Chicago) in 2017 together produced $3.44 trillion in GDP, which was just slightly less than the entire economic output of Germany at $3.64 trillion, and those three US metros as a separate national economy would have ranked as the fifth-largest economy in the world last year. To generate about the same amount of economic output last year required a labor force in Germany (44 million)  about twice the size of the combined labor forces of NYC, LA, and Chicago (22 million).
  5. The top six largest US metro areas (NY, LA, Chicago, Dallas, DC, and San Francisco) last year produced $5 trillion of economic output (GDP), and those six metro areas combined as a separate country would have been the third-largest national economy in the world, ahead of No. 4 Japan’s $4.8 trillion GDP in 2017.
  6. It’s also interesting to note that roughly half of America’s GDP last year ($9.75 trillion) was produced in the country’s 22 largest metro areas: the 20 metros in the table above plus St. Louis and Portland (see second map above).

It’s mind-boggling to think that the economy of the New York City metro area is larger than Canada’s economy with a labor force that is half the size, and the economy of the LA area is almost as large as the entire Mexican economy with a labor force that is 88 percent smaller.

MP: This comparison provides another demonstration of how ridiculously large America’s $19.5 trillion economy really is by showing that the economies of America’s largest metropolitan areas are equivalent in economic size to the GDP of entire large countries (see my recent comparison on CD of the economic size of US states to entire countries with comparable GDP). It’s mind-boggling to think that the economy of the New York City metro area is larger than Canada’s economy with a labor force that is half the size, and the economy of the LA area is almost as large as the entire Mexican economy with a labor force that is 88 percent smaller. Moreover, each of America’s 17 largest metro economies as separate nations is big enough to rank in the world’s 50 largest economies, and all 20 US metro areas in the table above would rank in the world’s 56 largest economies. Perhaps it’s a demonstration of Larry Kudlow’s mantra that “free market capitalism is the best path to prosperity” because it was largely free markets, free trade, and capitalism that propelled the US from a minor British colony in the 1700s into a global economic superpower and the world’s largest economy with dozens of metro areas that produce economic output equivalent to the GDP of some of the world’s largest countries.

Special thanks to Kevin Kiefer for his assistance collecting and organizing the data for this post.

This article was reprinted with permission from the American Enterprise Institute.