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

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21. Wisconsin
> 2017 unemployment: 3.3% (10th lowest)
> Pension funded ratio: 99.1% (the highest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +1.3% (21st lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.3% (17th lowest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa1/Stable

Wisconsin has one of the strongest job markets of any state. Just 3.3% of the state’s labor force was out a job in 2017, well below the 4.4% national unemployment rate. Wisconsin is also better positioned to pay out the pensions of its public employees than any other state. While many states are facing a pension funding crisis, Wisconsin has funding for 99.1% of its pension obligations, well above the 65.9% average across all states.

Economic growth, however, is relatively weak in Wisconsin. In the last year, Wisconsin’s GDP grew by 1.3%, compared to the 2.2% national economic growth.

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22. North Carolina
> 2017 unemployment: 4.6% (20th highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 88.3% (6th highest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +2.4% (13th highest)
> Poverty rate: 14.7% (14th highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aaa/Stable

With a relatively fast growing economy, North Carolina is drawing in new residents at a faster rate than most states. In the last year, the state’s 2.4% GDP growth was faster than the 2.2% national economic growth. The state’s labor force has also grown by 5.3% since 2013. Despite the fast pace of economic growth, unemployment is more common in North Carolina than in a majority of states. In 2017 4.6% of the state workforce was unemployed, higher than the 4.4% national unemployment rate.

North Carolina is a fiscally well-managed state. It is one of only 14 states with a perfect credit rating from Moody’s and a stable outlook.

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23. Indiana
> 2017 unemployment: 3.5% (13th lowest)
> Pension funded ratio: 63.0% (17th lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +1.8% (22nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 13.5% (20th highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aaa/Stable

Indiana’s economy is largely dependent on manufacturing and trade. The manufacturing sector accounts for 18.8% of total employment in the state, the largest share of any state other than Michigan. Indiana is also a major trading partner of Canada, shipping more than $4 billion in cars, trucks, auto parts, and steel across the Great Lakes every year. Indiana exported a total of $5,660 worth of goods per capita in 2017, the ninth most of any state.

While the U.S. manufacturing sector as a whole has struggled in recent years, Indiana has relatively low unemployment and ranks towards the middle of all states in a number of measures related to fiscal management. The state’s unemployment rate is 3.5%, less than the 4.4% national figure. Indiana’s rainy day fund is equivalent to 8.9% of its annual expenditures, greater than the 7.2% average across all states.

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24. Maryland
> 2017 unemployment: 4.1% (22nd lowest)
> Pension funded ratio: 64.9% (20th lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +2.2% (15th highest)
> Poverty rate: 9.3% (2nd lowest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aaa/Stable

By several key economic measures, Maryland aligns closely with the country as a whole. For example, 4.1% of the state’s workforce was unemployed in 2017, only slightly lower than the 4.4% national annual unemployment rate. Additionally, Maryland’s economy grew by 2.2% in 2017, exactly on pace with U.S. GDP growth that year.

Maryland’s median household income of $80,776 is the highest in the country. With a strong tax base, the state has relatively high tax revenue. Per capita tax revenue in Maryland was $3,473 in 2017, well above the $2,856 average across all states. Despite high revenues, Maryland’s debt is equal to 66.3% of its revenue, more than the 54.3% average debt-to-revenue ratio across states.

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25. Vermont
> 2017 unemployment: 3% (6th lowest)
> Pension funded ratio: 64.3% (19th lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +1.3% (21st lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.3% (17th lowest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa1/Stable

Vermont excels in a number of economic and quality of life measures. The state is relatively safe — there were just 166 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in Vermont in 2017, the second lowest violent crime rate of any state, and less than half the comparable national rate. Additionally, Vermonters workers are less likely than workers in other states to be out of a job. Vermont’s 3.0% annual unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country and well below the 4.4% national rate.

Still, Vermont is lagging in several measures. For example, the state’s 1.3% economic growth in 2017 was sluggish compared to the 2.2% national GDP growth. Additionally, Moody’s downgraded Vermont’s formerly perfect credit rating earlier this year, citing slow economic growth prospects and growing long-term liabilities.