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The St. Louis area is more prosperous than many of its residents think, James Bullard said Friday.

Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, presented an analysis of metro areas based on per capita income and cost of living. When incomes are adjusted for something called regional price parities, he said, St. Louis has the seventh-highest standard of living among 53 U.S. metro areas with populations of more than 1 million.

Most places at the top of the list, led by San Jose, Calif., San Francisco and Boston, are high-income cities that also are expensive. Among the top 10, only St. Louis and Nashville, Tenn., had below-average costs of living.

"If I randomly reallocate all of you to other MSAs, and you are the average guy, you are probably going to be worse off than staying here in St. Louis," Bullard told attendees at Bi-State Development Agency's annual meeting.  

When an audience member asked why the high ranking doesn't square with most St. Louisans' perception, Bullard replied, "I'm trying to shock you at what's really going on here." He added that a "cultural story" in recent decades about high-tech coastal boom towns may have led people to underestimate the success of places like St. Louis, Nashville and Minneapolis.

In a press conference after his speech, Bullard said he was concerned about Friday's report that the U.S. lost 33,000 jobs during September. The count was affected by hurricanes that hit Florida and Texas, but Bullard said the report was "clearly weaker than expectations. ... To actually have negative numbers, that was a little bit startling."

Other Federal Reserve policymakers seem willing to increase interest rates in December for the third time this year, but Bullard has argued against such a move.

"I'm getting more concerned that we might make a policy mistake," he said Friday.

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