Just nine of Minnesota's 87 counties have seen their economies recover to pre-recession levels, or better.

But that puts Minnesota in a stronger recover than almost anywhere else in the country.

A new report by the National Association of Counties ranks Minnesota third in the nation in county-level economic recovery.

All nine of the counties that have bounced back are in the outstate: Clay, Marshall, Pennington and Polk in the northwest; Pope, Stevens and Wilkin in west central Minnesota and Jackson and Murray in the southwest corner of the state.

The economic recovery in some parts of Greater Minnesota is good news, said Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. But Minnesota can do better.

"The National Association of Counties study shows counties in Greater Minnesota are on the front end of the economic recovery," Clark Sieben said in a statement Thursday. "While Minnesota ranks third nationally for the number of recovered counties, we must continue to focus on growing jobs and increasing economic opportunity for all of Minnesota."

Barely 2 percent of U.S. counties – 65 out of 3,069 – have recovered to their pre-recession levels, according to National Association of Counties, which evaluated the counties by job recovery, unemployment rates, economic output and home prices.

Many Minnesota counties have recovered to pre-recession levels in at least some of survey's categories. In St. Louis County, jobs and economic growth are back up, but home prices are lower and the unemployment rate is higher than it was before the recession hit. In Traverse county, economic output and home prices came roaring back, but jobs and the unemployment rate have not yet recovered.

Hennepin County, according to the survey, still lags in home prices and unemployment. Ramsey County has not yet recovered in any of the four categories.

According to DEED's Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, 80 counties in Greater Minnesota have more jobs now than they did before the recession. The outstate has 19,580 more jobs now than it did in 2007, for a 1.8 percent increase. In the Twin Cities, job growth has increased 0.9 percent, with 34,308 more jobs than in 2007.

By DEED's count, Greater Minnesota has a much higher concentration of health care and social assistance jobs -- a field that kept booming through the recession. There are also more manufacturing jobs in the outstate and many of those employers kept their workforce, and even added jobs, through the recession and beyond.

Only the oil boom states of Texas – where 24 counties are back to their pre-recession levels – and North Dakota – with 10 – topped Minnesota's county-level recovery in the report. Next on the list were Kansas, with eight counties in recovery, Montana with three, Iowa and Alaska with two each; and South Dakota and South Carolina with one county each back up to pre-2008 economic strength.