Best and Worst Run States in America: A Survey of All 50

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46. West Virginia
> 2017 unemployment: 5.2% (3rd highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 71.9% (23rd highest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +2.2% (15th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.1% (4th highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa2/Stable

West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the country. The typical household in the state earns just $43,469 a year and 19.1% of the population lives in poverty. For reference, the typical American household earns $60,336 a year, and the national poverty rate is 13.4%. A weak job market is partially to blame for low incomes. In 2017, 5.2% of workers in West Virginia were unemployed, the third highest unemployment rate of any state.

Some residents may be leaving West Virginia because of the lack of jobs. From mid-2016 to mid-2017, 9,640 more people left the state than moved in, the fifth largest decline when adjusted for population. Additionally, over the last four years, the number of people working or looking for work in West Virginia fell by 2.5%.

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47. Mississippi
> 2017 unemployment: 5.1% (5th highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 57.5% (11th lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +0.1% (8th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 19.8% (the highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa2/Stable

Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the country. Nearly one in every five state residents live below the poverty line, the largest share of any state. A stronger job market would likely help reduce the state’s poverty rate. Mississippi’s annual unemployment rate of 5.1% is one of the highest of any states and well above the 4.4% national unemployment rate.

Poverty and a weak job market would likely improve with greater educational attainment. Just 84.4% of adults in Mississippi have a high school diploma, nearly the smallest share of any state. Education may be less of a budgetary priority in Mississippi than in most other states. Just 33.7% Mississippi’s annual spending goes to education, below the 35.3% average spending across all states.

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48. Alaska
> 2017 unemployment: 7.2% (the highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 62.7% (16th lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: -0.5% (4th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.1% (15th lowest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa3/Stable

A resource-rich state that depends heavily on the oil industry, Alaska has struggled since the price of oil collapsed in 2014. Alaska’s economy contracted by 0.5% in 2017, even as the U.S. economy grew by 2.2%. Joblessness is also a serious problem in Alaska. In 2017, 7.2% of the Alaska workforce was unemployed, the largest share of any state and well above the 4.4% national unemployment rate.

People are leaving Alaska far faster than they are coming in. Alaska’s population declined by a net total of 1.1% due to migration from mid-2016 to mid-2017, nearly the largest such decline of any state.

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49. New Mexico
> 2017 unemployment: 6.2% (2nd highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 65.4% (22nd lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +0.1% (8th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 19.7% (3rd highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa2/Stable

Last year, 6.2% of New Mexico’s labor force was unemployed, the second highest unemployment rate of any state and well above the comparable 4.4% national rate. The weak job market makes it difficult for many in the state to escape poverty. Some 6.6% of families in New Mexico earn less than $10,000 a year, the largest share of any state. Overall quality of life in New Mexico is further hamstrung by the prevalence of violence. There were 783 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in the state in 2017, more than double the national violent crime rate of 383 violent crimes per 100,000.

Economic growth is stagnant in New Mexico. The state’s economy grew by just 0.1% in 2017, even as the U.S. economy grew 2.2%.

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50. Louisiana
> 2017 unemployment: 5.1% (5th highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 59.7% (14th lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: -0.8% (2nd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 19.7% (3rd highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa3/Stable

Louisiana ranks as the worst-run state for the second year in a row. The state’s economy shrank by 0.8% last year, even as U.S. GDP expanded by 2.2%. Economic growth is desperately needed in the state as 5.1% of the workforce was out of a job in 2017, and nearly one in every five residents currently live below the poverty line.

The state government’s finances are also in relatively bad shape. Louisiana has a higher than typical debt load and the equivalent of just 3.9% of its annual spending saved in rainy day fund, far less than the 7.2% average across all states. Louisiana is a top petroleum producing state and has been hurt considerably by the 2014 drop in oil prices and the ongoing sector volatility.