Special Report

The States With the Best and Worst Economies

Source: Jeff Dahl / Wikimedia Commons

30. Illinois
> 2016 GDP: $692.45 billion (5th largest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 1.0% (tied–16th smallest growth)
> Unemployment: 4.6% (16th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 1.1% (16th slowest growth)

Dragged down recently by the government and manufacturing sectors, GDP growth in Illinois has been sluggish. The government sector is bogged down in gridlock, unable to pass a budget since 2015, while manufacturing in the state has been affected by the familiar forces of automation and outsourcing. The total value of goods and services in the state grew by only about 1.0% in each of the last five years, about half the national GDP growth rate. Total employment increased at a similarly slow pace. Partially as a result, 4.6% of workers in Illinois are looking for a job, a slightly larger share than the 4.3% U.S. unemployment rate.

Source: Thinkstock

29. Georgia
> 2016 GDP: $461.11 billion (9th largest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 2.2% (10th largest growth)
> Unemployment: 4.9% (7th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 2.4% (11th fastest growth)

Though economic conditions are better in Georgia than they are across most states in the Southeast, the Peach State still lags behind much of the country in a number of measures. Though employment has gone up annually in Georgia by a relatively rapid 2.4% over the last five years, some 4.9% of the workforce remains jobless, one of the higher unemployment rates of any state. Additionally, 17.0% of people in Georgia live in poverty, higher than the nationwide poverty rate of 14.7%.

Source: Thinkstock

28. Rhode Island
> 2016 GDP: $50.33 billion (7th smallest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 0.8% (8th smallest growth)
> Unemployment: 4.1% (25th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 1.1% (12th slowest growth)

Economic growth in Rhode Island has been relatively sluggish in recent years. The state’s GDP grew at a 0.8% annual rate over the last five years, well below the 2.0% annual U.S. GDP growth rate over the same period. Annual employment growth during that time was also below comparable measures in most states.

As was the case in many states, Rhode Island’s manufacturing sector stymied growth. However, strong growth in Rhode Island’s construction sector was more than enough to balance out economic contraction in manufacturing. New housing starts were up over 20% in Rhode Island 2016, one of the largest increases of any state.

Source: Upstateherd / Wikimedia Commons

27. South Carolina
> 2016 GDP: $183.87 billion (25th smallest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 2.0% (11th largest growth)
> Unemployment: 4.1% (25th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 2.3% (12th fastest growth)

While inbound migration in recent years has kept South Carolina’s economic growth on par with the country as a whole, the state is still among the poorest in the nation. South Carolina’s GDP has increased at a compound annual rate of 2.0% annually since 2011, in line with national growth.

Still, the industries that led growth in the state over the past year — construction and professional services — are relatively low paying in South Carolina, and the annual average wage of $42,879 for all industries is the ninth lowest of all states. An estimated 16.6% of South Carolina residents live in poverty, far more than the 14.7% national poverty rate.

Source: Kennethaw88 / Wikimedia Commons

26. Michigan
> 2016 GDP: $430.61 billion (13th largest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 1.9% (tied–13th largest growth)
> Unemployment: 4.2% (23rd highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 1.9% (15th fastest growth)

While perhaps no U.S. city has suffered from a more dramatic economic decline than Detroit, economic conditions in Michigan closely match those across the nation as a whole. Over the last five years, the state’s annualized employment and GDP growth rates — each at 1.9% — were within a 10th of a percentage point of the corresponding national rate. Additionally, 4.2% of Michigan’s workers are out of a job, just below the 4.3% U.S. unemployment rate. However, adults in Michigan are less likely to have a bachelor’s degree than adults nationwide — putting the state at a disadvantage for attracting high growth industries in the coming years.

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