Special Report

States With the Fastest (and Slowest) Growing Economies

The Slowest Growing Economies

Downtown of Jackson, Mississippi
Source: Thinkstock

10. Mississippi
>2015 GDP growth:
> 2015 GDP: $95.5 billion (15th smallest)
> 1-yr. population change: 0.0%
> 2015 unemployment: 6.5% (5th highest)

Mississippi’s population remained basically unchanged in 2015, even as the vast majority of state populations expanded that year. As is the case with most states with flat or declining populations, Mississippi’s economy was also relatively stagnant. The state’s GDP grew at just a 0.7% pace compared to the U.S. economy’s 2.4% growth rate. Last year’s tepid growth was at least a slight improvement over 2014, when the state’s economy actually contracted by 0.3%. Only Alaska’s economy contracted more than Mississippi’s that year. The state’s growth rate was most significantly curbed by its flagging government sector, which declined by at least 0.5% in each of the last six years, including a 0.9% drop in 2015.

Albuquerque Plaza, New Mexico
Source: Wikimedia Commons

9. New Mexico
>2015 GDP growth:
> 2015 GDP: $85.9 billion (14th smallest)
> 1-yr. population change: 0.0%
> 2015 unemployment: 6.6% (3rd highest)

Growth in New Mexico’s economy was relatively stagnant. The state’s economic output increased by less than a percent in 2015, far below the nationwide 2.4% growth rate. Government, the state’s largest industry, was the biggest drag on growth, contracting by 1.2% in 2015.

Far more rapid economic expansion is likely necessary to alleviate the state’s economic woes. The state’s annual jobless rate of 6.6% is nearly the worst in the country. Additionally, 21.3% of New Mexico’s residents live in poverty, the second highest poverty rate of any state.

Hartford, Connecticut dusk
Source: Thinkstock

8. Connecticut
>2015 GDP growth:
> 2015 GDP: $230.3 billion (23rd largest)
> 1-yr. population change: -0.1% (4th largest decline)
> 2015 unemployment: 5.6% (19th highest)

Connecticut is one of many Northeastern states in which outbound migration may have hindered economic growth. Connecticut’s population declined by 0.1% between 2014 and 2015, one of only five states where the population fell over that time. In an interview last year with local newspaper Hartford Courant, economist and town manager Ron Van Winkle attributed the population loss to aging baby boomers retiring to warmer climates and a slowing stream of inbound young professionals moving to the area. The state’s economy grew at a tepid 0.6% pace in 2015, far slower than the 2.4% national growth rate.

Several key sectors were a drag on the economy. Manufacturing and government, two of the largest industries in the state, contracted by 4.2% and 0.7% respectively in 2015.

Lewiston, Maine
Source: Thinkstock

7. Maine
>2015 GDP growth:
> 2015 GDP: $50.5 billion (7th smallest)
> 1-yr. population change: -0.1% (5th largest decline)
> 2015 unemployment: 4.4% (16th lowest)

Maine’s economy expanded by less than 0.5% in 2015, far less than the nationwide 2.4% growth rate. Many industries in the state actually contracted, including the real estate industry — one of the largest by economic output in the state. Despite lagging economic growth, the state’s unemployment rate of only 4.4% is far lower than the national unemployment rate of 5.3%. As in a number of states with relatively weak economic growth, Maine’s population declined in 2015, one of only five states with negative population growth.

Cheyenne, Wyoming
Source: Thinkstock

6. Wyoming
>2015 GDP growth:
> 2015 GDP: $35.3 billion (2nd smallest)
> 1-yr. population change: 0.3% (19th largest increase)
> 2015 unemployment: 4.2% (13th lowest)

Wyoming’s GDP growth rate of just 0.4% in 2015 trailed the national growth rate of 2.4%. Housing-related industry activity presented a major drag on the state’s economy. Wyoming’s real estate and rental and leasing sector contracted by 4.0% in 2015, in contrast with the sector’s 2.0% growth nationally. Declining real estate activity is likely tied to Wyoming’s sluggish population growth. The state’s population grew by 0.3% between 2014 and 2015, slower than the nationwide population growth rate of 0.8%.

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