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Want to understand the U.S. economy’s actual performance rather than rely on the doses of hopium so often served up in the Mainstream Media?  Then hightail it over to the National Association of Counties website.

The Association has done an absolutely jaw-dropping research job, examining the economic records of each of the nation’s 3,069 counties and figuring out which ones have experienced genuine economic recovery and which still lag behind. And kudos to The Wall Street Journal‘s Eric Morath for writing up the report and providing a handy-dandy summary.

The two big takeaways from the survey look pretty bearish to me. First, if you define full recovery as surpassing pre-recession bests in terms of job levels, unemployment rates, economic output, and home prices, only 65 of those 3,069 counties pass the test. That’s only about one in 47.

Second, fully 42 of the 65 recovered counties are in the energy-rich states of Alaska, North Dakota, and Texas. (Oddly, none are in Oklahoma.) That’s another sign of a development I’ve warned of previously – the overall U.S. economic recovery, and in particular the rebound in the productive sectors of the economy, like manufacturing, has depended heavily on the American energy revolution. And you know what’s been happening to energy prices lately.

As a result, Morath notes, none of the recovered counties has a population of more than 500,000. If you’re still wondering why most Americans say they’re not experiencing a bounce-back economically, look no further.

One interesting finding that wasn’t reported by the Journal – none of the 65 recovered counties is in New York, California, Maryland, or Virginia. That indicates that centers of the One Percent (e.g., New York City and Los Angeles), and regions that are kept afloat economically by federal government spending (the Washington, D.C. area), haven’t been stellar economic performers, at least on a county-wide basis.

I’m looking forward to digging into the data more deeply, and if you’d like to do the same – or just see how your county has fared – check out the Counties Association’s interactive map.