The States With the Best and Worst Economies

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16. California
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +5.6% (4th largest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $3.0 trillion (the largest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 4.3% (tied — 9th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +1.8% (17th largest increase)

The largest state economy, California’s share of the U.S. GDP has grown steadily from 13.5% in 2013 to 14.5% in 2018. Over the same period, California’s GDP grew at an average annual rate of 5.6%, faster than the 4.1% national figure and the fourth largest increase of any state. Growth was led by the state’s information sector, which grew at an average rate of 11.0% a year, more than in any state other than Washington and Nevada. Today, California’s information sector — which includes global tech giants such as Apple, Alphabet, Intel, Oracle, and Facebook — accounts for 10.3% of state GDP and 27.2% of the economic value generated by the sector nationwide.

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17. New Jersey
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +3.2% (21st smallest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $624.9 billion (8th largest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 3.9% (tied — 16th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.3% (7th smallest increase)

In New Jersey, 39.7% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, the third largest share among states after Colorado and Massachusetts. Individuals with higher educational attainment are more likely to have advanced, high-paying jobs in major cities, and many New Jersey residents commute to jobs in nearby New York City and Philadelphia.

While New Jersey outranks a majority of states in wealth and education, population loss may be contributing to slowing economic growth in the Garden State. From 2010 to 2018, the population declined by 1.6% due to net migration, the seventh largest loss of any state. GDP grew at an average annual rate of 3.2% from 2013 to 2018, lagging behind the 4.1% national rate.

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18. Wisconsin
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +3.6% (24th largest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $337.0 billion (21st largest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 2.8% (tied — 8th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +1.1% (23rd largest increase)

One of many states in the Great Lakes region with relatively lackluster economic growth over the past five years, Wisconsin’s GDP grew at an average annual rate of 3.6% from 2013 to 2018, slower than the 4.1% national figure. One factor separating Wisconsin from its neighboring states is the growth in its mining sector. Due in part to its booming frac sand industry, the output of the mining sector grew at an average annual rate of 23.0% from 2013 to 2018, the second largest increase of any state.

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19. Georgia
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +5.0% (7th largest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $588.2 billion (9th largest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 3.8% (tied — 18th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +2.4% (10th largest increase)

Georgia’s population grew 4.0% due to migration from 2010 to 2018, outpacing the 2.5% national rate. Unemployment fell from 7.3% in April 2014 to 3.8% in April 2019, the fourth largest decrease of any state. Georgia’s GDP grew at an average annual rate of 5.0% from 2013 to 2018, the seventh fastest increase nationwide.

While Georgia is outpacing the nation as a whole in GDP growth, the state lags behind the country as a whole in other measures of economic health. The median household income in Georgia is roughly $4,000 below the national median, and 14.9% of residents live in poverty — greater than the 13.4% national poverty rate. Some 30.9% of Georgia adults have a bachelor’s degree, less than the 32.0% U.S. college attainment rate.

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20. Iowa
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +3.5% (24th smallest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $190.2 billion (21st smallest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 2.4% (tied — 4th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.6% (13th smallest increase)

One of the many manufacturing-dependent states in the Plains region with relatively lackluster economic growth in recent years, Iowa’s GDP grew at an average annual rate of 3.5% from 2013 to 2018, slower than the 4.1% national rate. Growth was led by the finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing sector, which grew at an average annual rate of 7.6% — the second fastest rate of any state.

Iowa is one of the cheapest states to live in — goods and services cost 10.2% less in Iowa than they do nationwide — and has one of the healthiest job markets. Just 2.4% of the labor force is out of work and looking for a job, tied with New Hampshire as the fourth lowest unemployment rate. Low unemployment can help lessen financial struggle, and just 10.7% of Iowa residents live in poverty, less than the 13.4% national figure. Despite these pull factors, Iowa’s population growth due to net migration was roughly one-third the national rate from 2010 to 2018.