Special Report

The States With the Best and Worst Economies

Source: Thinkstock

41. Oklahoma
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +1.5% (22nd largest increase)
> 2017 GDP: $175.1 billion (23rd smallest)
> June 2018 Unemployment: 3.9% (tied — 25th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.5% (4th smallest increase)

The typical household in Oklahoma earns $49,176 a year, about $8,400 less than the median income nationwide. Adults without a college education are less likely to have a well paying job, and in Oklahoma, just 25.2% of the adult population has a four-year college education. Nationwide, 31.3% of adults have a bachelor’s degree.

Over the last five years, Oklahoma’s population grew by 3.0%, nearly in line with the 3.7% national population growth. Job growth in the state did not keep pace, however. In the last half decade, employment in in Oklahoma climbed just 0.5% per year on average, well below the 1.5% average annual national job growth over the same period.

Source: Thinkstock

42. Wyoming
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +0.2% (the smallest increase)
> 2017 GDP: $35.4 billion (2nd smallest)
> June 2018 Unemployment: 3.7% (20th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: -0.6% (the largest decrease)

The population of Wyoming increased by just 0.5% from 2012 to 2017, the eighth smallest increase of any state. Over the same period, the U.S. population increased by 3.7%. The sluggish population growth has likely hindered economic growth in Wyoming. The state’s GDP has grown at an average annual rate of just 0.2% over the past five years, a fraction of the 1.7% national growth rate and the smallest increase of any state.

In other measures of economic health, Wyoming ranks slightly above the majority of states. For example, an estimated 11.3% of residents live in poverty, below the 14.0% of Americans nationwide who live in poverty.

Source: Thinkstock

43. Arkansas
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +1.1% (18th smallest increase)
> 2017 GDP: $110.3 billion (17th smallest)
> June 2018 Unemployment: 3.8% (tied — 21st lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.9% (14th smallest increase)

Arkansas is one of a number of Southern states with the worst economies in the country. The state’s educational attainment rate among adults is indicative of the economic problem Arkansas and many of its neighbors face — a relatively lower-skilled population with less disposable income. Just 22.4% of the state’s adults have a bachelor’s degree, the third lowest share among states. Arkansas’ poverty rate of 17.2% is the sixth highest among states and 3.2 percentage points above the national poverty rate.

Source: AuburnPilot / Wikimedia Commons

44. Alabama
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +0.7% (8th smallest increase)
> 2017 GDP: $182.8 billion (24th smallest)
> June 2018 Unemployment: 4.1% (tied — 21st highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.9% (17th smallest increase)

Alabama’s average annual GDP and employment growth rates were below those of most other states over the last five years. The state’s relatively slow growth is the least of its issues relative to economic health. The state’s population is relatively poor, uninsured, and among the most likely to be unemployed, all of which are indicators of a less than ideal consumer base.

State residents likely have relatively little disposable income to spend on nonessential items. The typical household in the state has an annual income of $46,257, roughly $11,000 below the national median household income.

Source: Thinkstock

45. Kentucky
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +0.8% (11th smallest increase)
> 2017 GDP: $174.9 billion (22nd smallest)
> June 2018 Unemployment: 4.2% (tied — 18th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +1.0% (20th smallest increase)

Over the last five years, Kentucky’s GDP grew by an annual average of just 0.8%, less than half the comparable 1.7% national GDP growth. This relatively slow economic growth is due in part to slow population growth. The state’s population expanded by just 1.6% in the last five years, less than half the 3.7% national population growth. Joblessness is also a problem for a larger than typical share of state residents. Some 4.2% of Kentucky’s labor force is unemployed, well above the 3.8% national unemployment rate. Over the last five years, the state’s mining and logging industry shed more than 10% of it’s jobs per year on average. The information industry as well as the government sector also reported falling employment over the same period.