The States With the Best and Worst Economies

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35. Missouri
> 2016 GDP: $263.93 billion (22nd largest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 1.1% (17th smallest growth)
> Unemployment: 3.9% (20th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 1.3% (20th slowest growth)

Like neighboring Kansas, Missouri has experienced sluggish economic growth in recent years. The number of jobs in the the state has increased by 1.3% on average annually since 2011, slower than the 1.9% national employment growth rate. Over the same period, the state’s GDP grew by just 1.1% on average annually, roughly half the 2.0% national growth rate. Missouri’s economy somewhat mirrors the industrial composition of the nation as a whole, and like the U.S. overall, mining and manufacturing curbed growth more than any other sector in 2016.

Source: Rapidfire / Wikimedia Commons

34. Maine
> 2016 GDP: $51.82 billion (8th smallest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 0.6% (5th smallest growth)
> Unemployment: 3.2% (13th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 0.8% (6th slowest growth)

Maine’s economy expanded by an annual rate of 0.6% over each of the last five years — a relatively sluggish pace compared to the 2.0% annual U.S. GDP growth. Recently, economic growth in the state has been stymied in large part by manufacturing, an industry suffering from increasing automation and outsourcing. However, some of those losses were balanced out by growth in the construction industry. New housing starts in Maine are up 12.9% over the previous year, much higher than the comparable 1.0% nationwide growth.

Source: T. Tolbert / Wikimedia Commons

33. Indiana
> 2016 GDP: $300.59 billion (16th largest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 1.4% (tied–23rd largest growth)
> Unemployment: 3.2% (13th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 1.6% (21st fastest growth)

Indiana’s GDP has grown at an annual rate of 1.4% annually since 2011, far slower than the 2.0% national rate. One reason for the slow economic growth is the state’s industrial composition. Relatively few workers in the state are employed in fast-growing industries like information and professional services, while 17.5% of jobs in Indiana are in manufacturing — the largest share of any state. Indiana’s potential for economic growth is further stymied by the state’s shallow talent pool. Just 24.9% of adults in the state have a bachelor’s degree, the ninth smallest share of all states.

Source: Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons

32. Tennessee
> 2016 GDP: $287.78 billion (19th largest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 2.3% (9th largest growth)
> Unemployment: 4.0% (21st lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 2.1% (14th fastest growth)

Faring far better than many neighboring states, Tennessee’s economy grew at an annual rate of 2.3% over the last five years. While manufacturing was a drag on many state economies, the durable goods manufacturing sector was a boon for Tennessee’s economy, contributing 0.36 percentage points to overall GDP growth last year.

Despite strong economic growth, many Tennessee residents face serious financial hardship. Some 16.7% of the state’s population lives below the poverty line, the 10th highest poverty rate of any state.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

31. North Carolina
> 2016 GDP: $449.75 billion (10th largest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 1.5% (tied–21st largest growth)
> Unemployment: 4.5% (17th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 2.1% (13th fastest growth)

While North Carolina’s large metro areas, such as Charlotte, Raleigh, and Durham, have experienced substantial economic growth in high-tech industries in recent years, the rural, manufacturing-dependent parts of the state have slowed the state’s overall economic growth. Indeed, manufacturing comprises a relatively large 10.9% of employment in the state, as does the information sector, accounting for 1.8% of total employment. In 2016, nondurable goods manufacturing curbed GDP growth more than any other sector. Overall, the state’s economy has grown 1.5% annually since 2011, slower than the 2.0% national rate.