The States With the Best and Worst Economies

Print Email

Source: Davel5957 / Getty Images

46. New Mexico
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +2.4% (10th smallest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $99.4 billion (14th smallest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 5.0% (2nd highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.8% (16th smallest increase)

From 2010 to 2018, the population of New Mexico declined by 1.7% due to net migration, the fifth largest contraction of any state. One push factor may be the state’s tough job market. As of April 2019, 5.0% of the New Mexico labor force was out of work, the second highest unemployment rate of any state.

Population loss is one common indicator of a weak regional economy, and from 2013 to 2018, the GDP of New Mexico grew at an average annual rate of just 2.4% — the 10th smallest increase of any state. Like the nation as a whole, the state mining sector was the largest drag on GDP growth.

Source: Jaimie Tuchman / Getty Images

47. Louisiana
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +1.9% (6th smallest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $252.1 billion (24th largest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 4.5% (7th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.4% (9th smallest increase)

The GDP of Louisiana grew at an average annual rate of 1.9% from 2013 to 2018, the sixth smallest increase of any state and less than half the 4.1% national figure. Like the nation as a whole, the largest drag on economic growth was the state’s mining sector. 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 $6.0 billion, falling from accounting for 7.4% of Louisiana’s GDP in 2013 to 4.4% in 2018.

Low educational attainment may hinder the development of high-growth sectors like information and professional business services in Louisiana and stymie overall GDP growth throughout the state. Just 23.8% of Louisiana adults have a bachelor’s degree, the fourth smallest share of any state. Additionally, some 4.5% of the workforce is unemployed, the seventh highest unemployment rate of any state.

Source: kenlund / Flickr

48. Mississippi
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +2.3% (9th smallest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $114.1 billion (15th smallest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 4.9% (tied — 3rd highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.9% (19th smallest increase)

While 32.0% of Americans 25 and over have a bachelor’s degree, just 21.9% of adults in Mississippi do, the second smallest share of any state. Individuals with lower educational attainment are less likely to hold secure, high-paying jobs, and areas with lower college attainment are more likely to be low-income overall. The typical Mississippi household earns approximately $17,000 less a year than the U.S. median, and 19.8% of state residents live in poverty — the highest poverty rate in the country.

Poverty and the gap in skills between the Mississippi workforce and the U.S. workforce are likely major hindrances to the state’s economic growth. The GDP of Mississippi grew at an average annual rate of just 2.3% from 2013 to 2018, the ninth smallest increase of any state. Some 4.9% of the Mississippi labor force is out of work, tied with West Virginia as the third highest unemployment rate.

Source: mtnmichelle / Getty Images

49. Alaska
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: -0.9% (the largest decrease)
> 2018 GDP: $54.0 billion (5th smallest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 6.5% (the highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: -0.4% (2nd largest decrease)

In recent years, the Alaskan economy has struggled, in large part due to falling oil prices. In 2013, the mining sector accounted for 28.8% of Alaskan GDP, the largest share of any state and more than 12 times the national proportion. As the price of oil fell more than 40% over the past five years, the economic value of the state’s mining sector fell by approximately $7.6 billion, falling to 16.1% of Alaska’s GDP by 2018. The overall GDP of Alaska fell at an average rate of 0.9% a year from 2013 to 2018 — the only state with negative economic growth over the period.

Alaska also has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. While the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen steadily since the recession, from 9.9% in April 2010 to 3.6% in April 2019, Alaska’s unemployment rate fell at a much slower pace over that time, from 8.5% to 6.5% — today the highest of any state.

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

50. West Virginia
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +1.8% (4th smallest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $77.5 billion (11th smallest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 4.9% (tied — 3rd highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: -0.1% (3rd largest decrease)

Due to both natural decrease and net negative migration, the population of West Virginia fell by 2.5% over the past eight years, the largest decline of any state. Population loss is one of the main indicators of a weak regional economy, and from 2013 to 2018, the GDP of West Virginia increased by just 1.8% a year on average — less than half the 4.1% national growth rate. Like the nation as a whole, the largest drag on economic growth was the state’s mining sector, which contracted from $8.8 billion in 2013 to $8.0 billion in 2018.

While West Virginia is attempting to develop more advanced, service-oriented industries, the state’s low educational attainment and high poverty rates are a hindrance to economic growth. Just 20.2% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, the smallest share of any state. The typical West Virginia household earns roughly $17,000 less than the typical U.S. household annually, and 19.1% of the state lives below the poverty line — the fourth highest poverty rate in the country.