Special Report

States With the Fastest (and Slowest) Growing Economies

46. New Jersey
> GDP growth:
> 2014 GDP: $504.2 billion (8th largest)
> 1-yr. population change: 0.3%(18th smallest)
> 2014 unemployment: 6.6% (13th highest)

Although New Jersey’s GDP of $504.2 billion was the eighth highest in the nation, its GDP growth rate was one of the lowest in the nation in 2014. With negative growth figures, industries such as finance and insurance and management of companies and enterprises were a drag on the state’s economy. What growth there was came from the professional and technical services sector, which contributed 0.22 percentage points to the state’s overall growth. In New Jersey, relatively low GDP growth came with relatively high unemployment. The state’s unemployment rate was almost half a percentage point higher than the national rate of 6.2%.

47. Maine
> GDP growth:
> 2014 GDP: $52.0 billion (8th smallest)
> 1-yr. population change: 0.1%(9th smallest)
> 2014 unemployment: 5.7% (21st lowest)

Of all the states with expanding economies in 2014, none had a lower GDP growth rate than Maine. Maine’s economy grew by 0.2%, 2 percentage points lower than the national growth rate of 2.2%. Growth in the state was driven primarily by the management of companies and enterprises sector, which contributed 0.36 percentage points to the state’s overall growth. However, the finance and insurance industry and the nondurable goods industry detracted 0.47 percentage points and 0.16 percentage points respectively from Maine’s growth, the most negative impact those industries had on the economy of any state.

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48. Virginia
> GDP growth:
> 2014 GDP: $427.5 billion (11th largest)
> 1-yr. population change: 0.7%(20th largest)
> 2014 unemployment: 5.2% (17th lowest)

Virginia’s economy was the only one in the country to neither grow nor shrink in 2014. Industries that contributed to growth, such as the information and health care and social assistance sectors, which accounted for 0.15 and 0.12 percentage points respectively in growth, were cancelled out by negative contributions from other industries. The nondurable goods industry and the construction industry shrunk the state’s economy by 0.15 and 0.19 percentage points respectively. Despite a year of no growth, Virginia’s unemployment rate was 5.2% in 2014, a full percentage point lower than the national unemployment rate of 6.2%.

49. Mississippi
> GDP growth:
> 2014 GDP: $94.5 billion (15th smallest)
> 1-yr. population change: 0.1%(8th smallest)
> 2014 unemployment: 7.8% (tied–the highest)

Mississippi’s economy shrank by 1.2% in 2014, one of only two states where the economy contracted. The decrease was due primarily to a decline in the state’s construction industry, which subtracted 0.54 percentage points from Mississippi’s growth, the largest decline among all state construction sectors. What little growth there was in the state came from the durable goods sector, which contributed 0.18 percentage points to GDP growth. The nondurable goods sector contributed another 0.12 percentage points to growth. Mississippi’s 2014 unemployment rate improved from 2013, but at 7.8% it was still tied with Nevada for the highest in the nation. State residents were also relatively poor. A typical household earned $37,963, the lowest in the country. And the state’s poverty rate of 24.0% was also the highest nationwide.

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50. Alaska
> GDP growth:
> 2014 GDP: $48.7 billion (6th smallest)
> 1-yr. population change: -0.1%(4th smallest)
> 2014 unemployment: 6.8% (10th highest)

Alaska’s economy shrank by 1.3%, one of only two state economies to contract in 2014. Also, Alaska’s unemployment rate was 6.8%, the 10th highest in the country. The nondurable goods sector contributed 0.16 percentage points to the state’s GDP growth. However, this was not enough to offset the industries in decline. Mining activity was a major contributor to growth in the states with the largest growth rates. In Alaska, however, the sector was actually a drag on the economy. The mining sector contributed -1.84 percentage points to the state’s GDP growth rate, the most negative impact compared to all state mining sectors nationwide. The slowing energy output is due in large part to long-running production declines on Alaska’s North Slope. The area produced just over 15,000 barrels of crude oil in March this year, a near historical low, especially when compared to March 1988 when more than 63,000 barrels were produced. While Alaska’s economy shrunk more than any other state’s, it was an improvement from 2013, when the state’s economy retracted by 4.0%.

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