America's Fastest Growing (and Shrinking) Economies

5. Steubenville-Weirton, OH-WV
> 2013 GMP change: -2.6%
> 2013 change in employment: -2.6% (2nd worst)
> Projected 2014 GMP change: 2.2% (161st best)
> Unemployment rate: 9.3% (40th highest)

After moderate growth in 2011 and 2012, Steubenville’s economy shrank by 2.6% last year. With falling employment in 2013, and decades-long population decline, the Steubenville region has been struggling for some time. The typical home in the Steubenville metro area was worth $83,400 in 2012, less than half the national median home value that year. A recent plan to build a pipeline in the area, however, could provide a much needed boost to the economy.

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4. Lafayette, LA
> 2013 GMP change: -3.2% (tied-3rd worst)
> 2013 change in employment: 2.0% (tied-65th best)
> Projected 2014 GMP change: 2.1% (156th worst)
> Unemployment rate: 4.8% (38th lowest)

Employment in Lafayette rose by 2% last year, better than the national employment growth rate that year. Similarly, Lafayette’s most recent unemployment rate was 4.8%, among the lowest in all metro areas measured. Like many Louisiana regions, Lafayette’s economy has been stimulated in the past by the oil and gas industry. In 2012, oil and gas companies Schlumberger and Wood Group Production Services were among the region’s top-employers. Lafayette is also home to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. According to a 2012 study by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and IHS, Lafayette’s GMP was expected to grow by 7.5% that year. However, the groups’ most recent report indicates the area’s economy shrank by more than 8% in 2012, and then by 3.2% in 2013.

3. Yuma, AZ
> 2013 GMP change: -3.2% (tied-3rd worst)
> 2013 change in employment: -1.9% (tied-5th worst)
> Projected 2014 GMP change: 1.3% (48th worst)
> Unemployment rate: 30.6% (the highest)

The unemployment rate in Yuma as of November was the worst in the nation at more than 30%. Much of the local economy is dependent on the strong military presence in Yuma. One explanation for the continuing decline could be federal budget cuts affecting government jobs in the area. The area’s economy has also relied heavily on seasonal industries, such as agriculture and tourism. As a result, it may be difficult to accurately capture the state of the region’s economy. However, other factors point to a struggling economy in the Yuma metro area. More than one in five houses, for example, were vacant in 2012, compared with just more than 12% nationwide.

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2. Decatur, IL
> 2013 GMP change: -4.8%
> 2013 change in employment: -4.2% (the worst)
> Projected 2014 GMP change: 0.8% (17th worst)
> Unemployment rate: 12.7% (7th highest)

The Decatur area’s GMP fell by nearly 5% in 2013 and employment dropped by a nation-leading 4.2% last year. As a result, the area’s unemployment rate rose from 10.1% in November of 2012 to 12.7% in November of 2013. Contributing to this was the decline in the number of manufacturing jobs in the area, which fell by more than 15% in the 12 months through November 2013. As the global mining boom slowed in 2013, Caterpillar cut hundreds of jobs in Decatur, and recently Archer Daniels Midland announced plans to move its headquarters, along with 100 jobs, upstate to Chicago.

1. Shreveport-Bossier City, LA
> 2013 GMP change: -5.2%
> 2013 change in employment: -1.3% (10th worst)
> Projected 2014 GMP change: 1.6% (82nd worst)
> Unemployment rate: 6.9% (180th highest)

For the second consecutive year, the Shreveport area shrank more than any other metro area in the nation. The area’s GMP fell by 11% in 2012. The economy’s rate of decline slowed somewhat last year, but it still contracted by more than 5%. One explanation for the dramatic declines could be General Motors’ decision to close its large assembly plant in Shreveport in 2012. The plant, which manufactured Hummers and various truck models prior to the shutdown, employed 3,000 people at one time.

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