The States With the Best and Worst Economies

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Source: Kristin / Wikimedia Commons

45. Wyoming
> 2016 GDP: $34.44 billion (2nd smallest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: -1.1% (2nd largest decline)
> Unemployment: 4.1% (25th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: -0.2% (2nd largest decline)

The total value of goods and services fell by 1.1% in Wyoming between 2011 and 2016 — the steepest decline of any state except for Alaska. The number of jobs in the state also fell by 0.2% over the same time period, the second worst employment decline in the country after only West Virginia.

Like many states with relatively weak economies, Wyoming is heavily dependent on its natural resources. About 8.0% of all jobs in the state are in resource extraction, the highest share of any state and well above the industry’s 1.3% share of total employment nationwide.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

44. Arkansas
> 2016 GDP: $108.68 billion (17th smallest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 1.0% (tied–16th smallest growth)
> Unemployment: 3.4% (14th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 0.9% (10th slowest growth)

Arkansas is one of several states in the Southeast with a relatively weak economy. Though the state’s 3.4% jobless rate is well below the 4.3% nationwide unemployment rate, many in Arkansas are struggling financially. Some 19.1% of residents live below the poverty line, the fourth largest share of any state. In addition, the state’s economy is heavily dependent on manufacturing, an industry that will likely continue to decline in the United States as companies rely increasingly on automation and foreign labor.

Source: Thinkstock

43. Kentucky
> 2016 GDP: $172.98 billion (22nd smallest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 0.9% (tied–12th smallest growth)
> Unemployment: 5.0% (5th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 1.4% (24th slowest growth)

Kentucky’s economy has expanded by a rate of 0.9% a year since 2011, less than half the 2.0% annual national growth rate over that time. Once a source of major economic growth and steady employment, the state’s coal industry has been shedding jobs for years and continues to decline. In 2016 alone, Kentucky’s mining industry shed 3,500 jobs. High-growth industries such as information and professional services employ relatively small share of workers in the state. Kentucky also struggles with unemployment and poverty. Some 5.0% of workers in the state are unemployed, and 18.5% of residents live in poverty, each the sixth largest share of any state.

Source: Rudi Weikard / Wikimedia Commons

42. Alabama
> 2016 GDP: $181.21 billion (24th smallest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 0.8% (8th smallest growth)
> Unemployment: 4.9% (7th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 1.1% (13th slowest growth)

Some 13.6% of Alabama’s workers are employed in manufacturing, a slow growth industry that will likely decline in the coming years as companies increasingly rely on automation and foreign labor. The state’s 1.1% annual employment growth rate between 2011 and 2016 lags behind most other states and the 1.9% nationwide employment growth over that time.

Wages tend to be lower in Alabama. Average wages in every major industry in the state are lower than the comparable typical wages nationwide. Partially as a result, Alabama’s GDP per capita of $37,261 is lower than in all but five other states.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

41. Oklahoma
> 2016 GDP: $175.08 billion (23rd smallest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 3.0% (tied–4th largest growth)
> Unemployment: 4.3% (21st highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 0.9% (9th slowest growth)

Oklahoma’s economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.0% over the last five years, one of the fastest growth rates of any state and well above the 2.0% U.S. GDP growth rate over the same time period. The rapidly increasing value of goods and services has not translated into rapid job growth, however. Over the same time period, employment in the state increased by an annualized rate of 0.9%, one of the smallest such growth rates of any state. Like many states with lagging economies, Oklahoma is heavily dependent on mining and resource extraction.