Economy

America's Most (and Least) Livable States

5. North Dakota
> Future livability score: 14.5
> Full-time employment: The best
> Job creation index:  The best
> Outlook on life in five years: 14th worst

Like its southern neighbor, North Dakota has an extremely strong job outlook, with the nation’s best job creation score and a June unemployment rate of 2.9% — the nation’s lowest. In 2011, the proportion of employees who stated their employer was hiring was 34 percentage points higher than the proportion claiming their employer was shedding jobs — the largest disparity in the nation. Additionally, North Dakota residents have the fourth-highest economic confidence score, and few states have residents who are more optimistic about their future quality of life. But despite all these positive projections about the state, respondents are less enthusiastic about their own lives in five years, giving the 14th-worst projections for their futures lives.

4. Nebraska
> Future livability score: 13.7
> Full-time employment: 2nd best
> Job creation index: 4th best
> Outlook on life in five years: 9th worst

Nebraska’s housing market did not collapse nearly as hard as other parts of America. Housing prices in the state only fell 2.8% from the first quarter of 2007 to the first quarter of 2012, much better than the U.S. average of a 33.3% drop. In turn, the June 2012 unemployment rate of 3.8% is second lowest after North Dakota, and is less than half the national rate of 8.2%. Those employees feel valued, too; the state ranks fifth overall in terms of managers treating employees as partners and not as bosses. Despite this, Nebraska is one of four states on this list ranked in the bottom 10 in terms of life outlook five years from now.

3. Colorado
> Future livability score: 12.8
> Full-time employment: 10th best
> Job creation index: 18th worst
> Outlook on life in five years: 18th worst

Colorado residents are among the healthiest in the United States. With an obesity rate of 18.5%, it is the only state to have an obesity rate below 20% as of 2011. The state also ranks third in terms of finding a safe place to exercise. Colorado’s 20% smoking rate, while not as impressive as its low obesity rate, is below the national average of 21%. The state’s unemployment rate is the same as the national average at 8.2%. But of all states, Colorado has the fifth-lowest decline in unemployment from 2011 to 2012, dropping only 0.2 percentage points compared to 0.9 percentage points in the U.S. as a whole. However, for those who have work, the state ranks third in managers who treat their employees like partners.

2. Minnesota
> Future livability score: 10.5
> Full-time employment: 8th best
> Job creation index: 10th best
> Outlook on life in five years: 3rd worst

The Gopher state ranks first in economic confidence and the ease of finding a safe place to exercise. The Land of 10,000 Lakes also comes in second for the ease in finding clean, safe drinking water. With the seventh-lowest rate of smoking, the fifth-highest rate of regular visits to the dentist and the proportion of the population insured, Minnesotans are a healthy bunch compared to their fellow Americans. Despite all of this, the state is projected to have the fourth-worst change in home prices between the first quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013, with an almost 5% drop compared to a national average projected decrease of 1%.

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1. Utah
> Future livability score: 7.5
> Full-time employment: 21st best
> Job creation index: 5th best
> Outlook on life in five years: 21st worst

Job creation has been booming in Utah. The state ranks sixth highest in Gallup’s job creation index and has the tenth-lowest unemployment rate of any state in the country as of June. In 2011, the proportion of respondents stating their employers were hiring was 20 percentage points higher than the proportion stating their employers were letting people go. Positive attitudes go well beyond just the number of jobs: in the past 18 months, residents of Utah were more likely than those of any other state to claim they felt treated like a partner at work and to claim they had easy access to clean water. People in Utah not only like where they live, but they are also very healthy. No state has fewer smokers and just four states have lower obesity rates.

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