Washington area economy ranks as strongest in the U.S.

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The Washington, D.C., area, including Northern Virginia, has the strongest economy in the country, according to a new survey, while three other Virginia metro areas are ranked in the top 50.

Policom Corp., an independent research firm based in Palm City, Fla., released its “2012 Economic Strength Rankings” for 366 metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S., defined as an urbanized area with a population of at least 50,000.

Policom’s rankings are based on data from 23 measurements of economic strength including per-capita personal income and total jobs in a variety of industries.

For the second consecutive year, the Washington area, which includes parts of Maryland and Northern Virginia, ranked at the top of the list. In fact, Washington has ranked no lower than third on the list since 2004.

The three other Virginia metro areas in the top 50 were Hampton Roads (Virginia Beach- Norfolk- Newport News), Charlottesville and Richmond, all of which moved up at least one spot from the previous list.

Hampton Roads was No. 25 (up from 42nd in 2011), while Charlottesville was 28th (up from 29th), and Richmond was 35th (up from 36th).

The five other metro areas did not rank in top 100 on the list but improved their rankings from last year:

• Winchester, 121 (138 last year)
• Harrisonburg, 173 (201)
• Roanoke, 197 (217)
• Blacksburg-Radford, 278 (301)
• Bristol-Kingsport (including Bristol, Va.), 295 (321)

Two other areas saw their ranking drop or stay the same:

• Lynchburg, 312 (285)
• Danville, 364 (364)

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