The States With the Best and Worst Economies

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Source: Davel5957 / Getty Images

41. Oklahoma
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +1.8% (5th smallest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $200.0 billion (22nd smallest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 3.3% (tied — 18th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.8% (17th smallest increase)

Oklahoma’s GDP rose at an average annualized rate of 1.8% from 2013 to 2018, the fifth slowest pace of any state and less than half the 4.1% national figure. Due in part to the sharp drop in oil prices in 2014, the mining sector contracted by roughly $2.4 billion in economic output over the five-year period, falling from accounting for 16.4% of Oklahoma’s GDP in 2013 to 13.7% in 2018.

Other factors inhibiting Oklahoma’s economic growth are the state’s low educational attainment and high poverty rate. Just 25.5% of adults in Oklahoma have a bachelor’s degree, the eighth smallest share of any state and far below the 32.0% national college attainment rate. The median household income in Oklahoma is roughly $10,000 less than the national figure, and 15.8% of state residents live below the poverty line, the eighth highest poverty rate nationwide.

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42. Alabama
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +2.9% (17th smallest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $221.1 billion (24th smallest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 3.8% (tied — 18th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.9% (21st smallest increase)

While 32.0% of Americans 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree, in Alabama just 25.5% of adults do — the eighth lowest college attainment rate of any state. Just 86.5% of adults have a high school diploma, the seventh lowest high school attainment rate. Low educational attainment can limit the number of high-paying firms attracted to a given geography and increases the likelihood of poverty for individuals and populations overall. In Alabama, the typical household earns just $48,123 a year, about $12,000 less than the U.S. median. Some 16.4% of residents live in poverty, the seventh highest poverty rate of any state.

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

43. Arkansas
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +2.3% (8th smallest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $128.1 billion (17th smallest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 3.6% (tied — 25th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +1.2% (21st largest increase)

Just 23.4% of adults in Arkansas have a bachelor’s degree, the third lowest college attainment rate of any state. Individuals with lower educational attainment are less likely to have secure, high-paying jobs, and areas with lower college attainment tend to be poorer than in more-educated geographies. In Arkansas, the typical household earns $45,869 a year, over $14,000 less than the national median. Some 16.4% of residents live in poverty, far above the 13.4% national poverty rate and the seventh highest poverty rate of any state.

Poverty and a lack of talented labor may be limiting economic growth in Arkansas. GDP grew at an average annual rate of 2.3% from 2013 to 2018, the eighth slowest pace of any state and far less than the 4.1% national figure.

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44. Kentucky
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +2.7% (12th smallest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $208.3 billion (23rd smallest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 4.0% (tied — 13th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.8% (18th smallest increase)

While 32.0% of Americans 25 and over have at least a bachelor’s degree, in Kentucky 24.0% of Americans have a four-year college diploma, the fifth smallest share of any state. Individuals with lower educational attainment are less likely to have secure, high-paying jobs, and vice versa. The typical Kentucky household earns approximately $12,000 less than the typical U.S. household annually, and 17.2% of state residents currently live in poverty — far more than the 13.4% national poverty rate.

Poverty and low educational attainment can discourage prospective businesses from moving to a given area and limit economic growth overall. While the U.S. GDP grew at an annualized rate of 4.1% from 2013 to 2018, Kentucky’s grew at an average rate of 2.7%, the 12th slowest pace of any state.

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45. Wyoming
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +0.2% (2nd smallest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $39.4 billion (2nd smallest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 3.6% (tied — 25th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: -1.0% (the largest decrease)

Wyoming is one of a number of mining-heavy states to rank among the worst economies in the United States. In 2013, the mining sector accounted for 26.2% of the state’s GDP, the second largest share in the country. As the price of oil fell by more than 40% over the past five years, the economic value of the state’s mining sector declined by approximately $2.3 billion, falling to account for 20.1% of Wyoming’s GDP by 2018. Over the same period, the GDP across all sectors in Wyoming grew at an average annual rate of 0.2%, the second smallest increase of any state.