Next to the Seattle and Washington, D.C., metro areas, Denver is the nation’s strongest economy. That’s right—despite the occasional bad press, such as Denver’s high foreclosure rate, the engines of industry in the Mile High City remain strong. The assessment comes from a report released yesterday by Policom Corporation that looked at 366 metro areas and jobs and income data from two decades (via the Denver Business Journal). The third-highest ranking is the best Denver has ever placed in the annual report, after coming in seventh last year and 17th in 2008. What constitutes a strong economy?

“The top rated areas have had rapid, consistent growth in both size and quality for an extended period of time,” says William Fruth, president of Policom. “The rankings do not reflect the latest ‘hotspot’ or boom town, but the areas which have the best economic foundation. While most communities have slowed or declined during this recession, the strongest areas have been able to weather the storm.”

Colorado Springs was 40th, up from 73rd last year, and Boulder was 87th, up from 102nd last year. 7News notes several “now hiring” signs popping up in the metro region, including for construction, grocery, retail, casino, and software company jobs.

Just to make sure that data about economic growth isn’t anecdotal, Governor Bill Ritter, responding to criticism from some job seekers and lawmakers, issued an executive order Wednesday directing state agencies to track job creation, according to The Associated Press.