The States With the Best and Worst Economies

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36. Pennsylvania
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +3.5% (25th smallest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $788.5 billion (6th largest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 3.8% (tied — 18th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.6% (12th smallest increase)

The GDP of Pennsylvania grew at an average annual rate of 3.5% from 2013 to 2018, less than the 4.1% national growth rate. The state’s agriculture sector shrank at an average annual rate of 5.0% — similar to 5.3% rate of contraction for the sector nationwide. Employment in Pennsylvania grew at an average annual rate of 0.6% from 2013 to 2018, approximately one-third the national rate of employment growth.

While Pennsylvania lags behind the nation as a whole in GDP and employment growth, the Keystone State ranks near the middle of all states in several other measures of economic health. Some 3.8% of the Pennsylvania labor force is out of work and looking for a job — compared to the 3.6% national unemployment rate — and 31.4% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, slightly below the 32.0% national college attainment rate.

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37. Illinois
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +3.2% (20th smallest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $864.6 billion (5th largest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 4.4% (8th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.8% (15th smallest increase)

Largely due to outbound migration, the population of Illinois declined by 0.7% from 2010 to 2018, the second largest contraction of any state. Some 4.4% of the Illinois labor force is out of work, the eighth highest unemployment rate nationwide. From 2013 to 2018, the GDP of Illinois grew at an average annual rate of 3.2% — far slower than the 4.1% national growth rate.

Illinois ranks above the majority of states in several economic measures related to general prosperity and availability of talented labor. The typical Illinois household outearns the typical U.S. household by roughly $3,000 a year, and 12.6% of residents live below the poverty line — below the 13.4% national poverty rate. Some 34.4% of adults in Illinois have a bachelor’s degree, more than the 32.0% national college attainment rate.

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38. Missouri
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +2.7% (14th smallest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $317.7 billion (22nd largest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 3.3% (tied — 18th lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +1.0% (22nd smallest increase)

From 2013 to 2018, the GDP of Missouri grew at an average annual rate of 2.7%, trailing behind the 4.1% national growth rate.

In other measures of economic health, Missouri ranks toward the middle of all states. Some 3.3% of the Missouri workforce is out of work, compared to the 3.6% national unemployment rate, and 13.4% of residents live below the poverty line, equivalent to the national poverty rate. In educational attainment, however, Missouri ranks closer to the bottom of all states. Just 29.1% of state adults have a bachelor’s degree, less than the 32.0% national college attainment rate.

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39. North Dakota
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +0.3% (3rd smallest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $54.7 billion (6th smallest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 2.3% (2nd lowest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 0.0% (4th largest decrease)

While North Dakota led the nation in GDP growth from 2010 to 2012, the sharp decline in oil prices in 2014 reversed the state’s economic fortunes and resulted in negative GDP growth in 2015 and 2016. The swings amounted to an annual GDP growth of 0.3% from 2013 to 2018, the third smallest growth of any state and far behind the 4.1% national average for the period.

Unemployment and poverty in North Dakota, however, remain among the nation’s best. Just 2.3% of the North Dakota labor force is unemployed, the second lowest unemployment rate of any state. Similarly, 10.3% of North Dakota residents live in poverty, the ninth lowest poverty rate and far below the 13.4% national figure.

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40. Ohio
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +3.8% (21st largest increase)
> 2018 GDP: $676.2 billion (7th largest)
> April 2019 unemployment: 4.3% (tied — 9th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: +0.7% (14th smallest increase)

Ohio is one of many manufacturing-dependent Rust Belt states to rank among the worst economies in the United States. Due to both negative net migration and lackluster natural growth, the population of Ohio grew by just 1.3% from 2010 to 2018, roughly one-fifth the national population growth rate. Some 4.3% of the Ohio labor force is out of work, the ninth largest unemployment rate of any state. From 2013 to 2018, employment in Ohio grew at an average annual rate of just 0.7%, less than half the 1.5% national figure.

A relative lack of qualified workers may also be hindering economic growth in Ohio. Just 28.0% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, far less than the 32.0% national college attainment rate.