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U.S. metropolitan areas to see some economic growth this year: mayors

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nearly all 363 metropolitan areas in the United States will see economic and employment growth in 2014, but in many places expansion will be small, according to a forecast released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Wednesday.

The annual forecast, put together by IHS Global Insight, said that the gross domestic product of 356 areas will increase this year, when adjusted for inflation. But it said growth of 3 percent or more will happen in only 69 areas.

Last year, 97 areas had declining economies. This year, only three local economies - all in Maryland - are likely to shrink. Cumberland is forecast to have the sharpest decline, 3.9 percent, followed by Salisbury at 3.8 percent and Hagerstown at 2.2 percent. Economic growth in Binghamton and Glen Falls, New York, along with Santa Cruz, California, and Wichita Falls, Texas, will likely be flat.

The economy of the Florida area anchored by the city of Naples will likely expand the most, 6.3 percent, after 2.7 percent growth last year. In 2013, the area of Midland, Texas, had the most growth, 7.5 percent.

Typically a metropolitan area is made up of one or two major cities and surrounding suburbs.

Along the same lines, employment will likely grow in 357 areas in 2014, but the increases will be meager. Only 17 areas will likely see growth of 3 percent or more. Five areas are expected to have declines in employment: Salisbury, Maryland; Cumberland, Maryland; Rocky Mount, North Carolina; Muncie, Indiana; and Decatur, Illinois.

(Reporting By Lisa Lambert; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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