The States With the Best and Worst Economies

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26. South Carolina
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +4.7% (11th largest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $230.4 billion (25th smallest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 3.4% (tied — 21st lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +2.1% (13th largest increase)

The population of South Carolina increased by 7.8% due to net migration from 2010 to 2018, the fifth most of any state. Some pull factors may include the state’s low cost of living — goods and services cost 9.6 cents less on the dollar in the state than they do nationwide — warm Sun Belt climate, and falling unemployment. While the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 6.2% in April 2014 to 3.6% in April 2019, the South Carolina unemployment rate fell from 6.3% to 3.4%.

Some factors contributing to South Carolina’s economy rank in the lower half of states, however, may be the state’s low educational attainment and high poverty rate. Just 28.0% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, far below the 32.0% national college attainment rate. Some 15.4% of South Carolina residents live in poverty, the ninth highest poverty rate of any state.

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27. Rhode Island
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +2.8% (15th smallest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $61.0 billion (7th smallest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 3.7% (tied — 23rd highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +1.1% (25th largest increase)

With a GDP of just $61.0 billion, Rhode Island is the seventh smallest state economy. Rhode Island is a heavily service-oriented economy, with a wealthy, educated population. The state had the largest decline in unemployment of any state over the past five years. Unemployment fell from 8.2% in April 2014 — the highest of any state — to 3.7% in April 2019, just slightly above the current national unemployment rate of 3.6%.

Despite falling unemployment and general prosperity, Rhode Island’s population shrank as a result of net migration over the last several years, and the state has experienced lackluster economic growth. The state’s GDP grew at an average annual rate of 2.8%, far less than the 4.1% national figure.

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28. Nebraska
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +2.7% (13th smallest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $123.0 billion (16th smallest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 2.9% (tied — 12th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.2% (6th smallest increase)

With a GDP of $123.0 billion, Nebraska is the 16th smallest state economy. The Nebraska economy is heavily dependent on the agriculture sector, which contracted at an average annual rate of 5.3% from 2013 to 2018 throughout the United States. In Nebraska, the sector shrunk at an average annual rate of 10.2%, falling from $10.1 billion to $5.9 billion over that time. Meanwhile, the fastest growing sectors in the state included utilities, finance, and information. Overall, the GDP of Nevada grew at an average rate of 2.7% from 2013 to 2018, far slower than the 4.1% national rate.

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29. New York
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +4.3% (15th largest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $1.7 trillion (3rd largest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 3.9% (tied — 16th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.6% (11th smallest increase)

New York population increased 0.8% between 2010 and 2018, much smaller than most states. Some factors keeping residents away may include the high cost of living — including exorbitant housing expenses — and high unemployment. Goods and services cost 15.8 cents more on the dollar in the state than they do nationwide, the highest cost of living of any state other than Hawaii. A typical house in New York costs 4.8 times the state’s median household income, higher than the 3.6 times average nationwide, and the sixth worst affordability ratio of all states. Additionally, the unemployment rate of 3.9% is higher than the national rate of 3.6%.

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30. Indiana
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +3.5% (25th largest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $366.7 billion (18th largest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 3.6% (tied — 25th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +2.1% (12th largest increase)

Indiana is one of several states in the Great Lakes region to experience sluggish economic growth over the past several years. The GDP of Indiana grew at an average annual rate of 3.5% from 2013 to 2018, trailing behind the 4.1% national growth rate.

In other measures of economic health, Indiana is roughly in line with the nation as a whole. Some 3.6% of the Indiana workforce is out of work and looking for a job — equivalent to the national unemployment rate — and 13.5% of residents live in poverty, compared to the 13.4% national poverty rate.