The latest report of the Brookings Institute's quarterly MetroMonitor has found that employment in the Bakersfield-Delano market has recovered faster than every other metro area in the United States except one.

Only New Orleans has added jobs faster since the onset of the economic downturn. Most of the growth is in the sectors of construction, manufacturing and oil and gas, said Mark Muro, senior fellow and policy director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings.

"While Bakersfield absolutely endured some carnage in the recession, it's a fairly significant story how you're bouncing back," Muro said.

And it's not just that the region had the farthest to rise, having fallen so low.

"A lot of places fell a long way and haven't been able to climb back out," Muro said.

Bakersfield-area construction jobs grew by 7.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012, and were up 27.7 percent over the last four quarters, according to MetroMonitor, Brookings' quarterly barometer of the health of America's 100 largest metropolitan economies. Over the same periods, local manufacturing jobs were up 7 percent and 13.1 percent, respectively.

Mining -- which includes oil and gas -- jumped 0.4 percent for the quarter and 11 percent for the year.

Nationally, unemployment rates continued to fall in more than half of all metropolitan areas in the first quarter, but remained above 6 percent in all but 11 metro areas, according to the report.

Housing prices, on the other hand, hit new lows in 73 of the 100 largest metro areas, raising new concerns after signs of growth in previous quarters.

MetroMonitor gave the Bakersfield area an overall quarterly economic performance ranking of No. 22 of 100 (up from No. 25 the previous quarter) because the growth in employment didn't completely offset other factors weighing us down.

The Bakersfield area ranked 20th for housing price recovery, for instance. In gross metropolitan products, or GMP, we came in at No. 51. GMP is the total output of goods and services within an area.

That reflected a trend of softening output across the country. Nationally, gross domestic product was up 0.6 percent.