Special Report

The States With the Best and Worst Economies

Source: Thinkstock

5. Massachusetts
> 2016 GDP: $446.48 billion (11th largest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 1.8% (tied–15th largest growth)
> Unemployment: 4.2% (23rd highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 1.8% (17th fastest growth)

Massachusetts is the only state in which more than 40% of adults have a bachelor’s degree. The well-educated workforce attracts high-paying, advanced industries to the state. Some 2.6% of workers in Massachusetts are employed in the information industry, 6.2% in financial activities, and 15.8% in professional services — each some of the largest shares in the country. Despite the state’s wealth and solid growth potential, outbound migration has limited economic growth in recent years. The state’s annual GDP growth rate of 1.8% between 2011 and 2016 was slightly slower than the 2.0% national rate.

Source: Thinkstock

4. New Hampshire
> 2016 GDP: $69.14 billion (12th smallest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 1.6% (tied–18th largest growth)
> Unemployment: 2.9% (6th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 1.3% (22nd slowest growth)

New Hampshire does not have the annual GDP growth rate that some of the other states that rank this high do. In many other regards, however, New Hampshire’s economy is one of the healthiest. For example, the state’s 8.2% poverty rate is by far the lowest of any state and nearly half the national poverty rate. By other measures, the state’s appears to have a stable middle class, an important attribute of a healthy economy. The state ranks among the best in the country in college attainment rates, and it has the fourth lowest unemployment rate.

Source: Lindsey G / Wikimedia Commons

3. North Dakota
> 2016 GDP: $47.63 billion (6th smallest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 4.0% (the largest growth)
> Unemployment: 2.5% (2nd lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 1.9% (16th fastest growth)

The 2006 discovery of the Parshall Oil Field in North Dakota’s Bakken formation sparked a modern day gold rush in the state and contributed to years of nation-leading economic growth that has only recently begun to slow down. Despite the state’s 6.5% GDP contraction in 2016, North Dakota’s annual economic growth rate was still double the nation’s compound annual growth rate since 2011 overall.

While just 29.1% of adults in the state have a bachelor’s degree, many of the jobs in the state’s highest-paying industry — mining — do not require a college education. Just 2.5% of North Dakota’s labor force is unemployed, the second lowest unemployment rate of any state.

Source: Thinkstock

2. Utah
> 2016 GDP: $136.19 billion (19th smallest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 2.9% (tied–6th largest growth)
> Unemployment: 3.2% (13th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 3.4% (the fastest growth)

Utah’s 3.4% annual employment growth rate between 2011 and 2016 was the most substantial of any state. The state’s GDP grew at an annualized rate of 2.9% over the same period, faster than all but five other states. This economic improvement in recent years has led to one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

Driven in large part by a 20.5% year-over-year increase in new housing starts, one of the largest such increases of any state, the construction industry contributed more to Utah’s GDP growth than any sector other than information.

Source: Thinkstock

1. Colorado
> 2016 GDP: $292.51 billion (18th largest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 3.0% (tied–4th largest growth)
> Unemployment: 2.3% (the lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 2.9% (3rd fastest growth)

Many of the jobs in the fastest growing industries in the coming years will require a college education, and in Colorado, 39.2% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, the second largest share of any state. Currently, some 8.4% of all workers in the state are employed in STEM jobs, one of the largest shares of any state.

Likely as a result, Colorado’s economy has expanded rapidly in recent years. The annual employment and GDP growth rates of 2.9% and 3.0%, respectively, between 2011 and 2016 are the third and fourth highest among all states. The information and scientific and technology sectors were the largest contributors to GDP growth in Colorado last year.

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