Best and Worst Run States in America: A Survey of All 50

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46. West Virginia
> 2018 unemployment: 5.3% (2nd highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 78.9% (17th highest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: 2.3% (20th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 17.8% (4th highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa2/Stable

Joblessness is a bigger problem in West Virginia than anywhere else in the lower 48. The state’s annual unemployment rate of 5.3% is well above the comparable 3.9% national rate. Likely in part due to the weak job market, many in the state are struggling financially. Some 17.8% of West Virginians live below the poverty line, a larger share than in all but three other states and far higher than the 13.1% national poverty rate.

Poor economic conditions may also explain why West Virginia reported the largest population decline of any state between mid-2017 and mid-2018. Over that period, largely due to people moving out, West Virginia’s population shrank by 0.6%, even as the total U.S. population grew by 0.6%.

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47. Alaska
> 2018 unemployment: 6.6% (the highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 66.6% (21st lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: 0.7% (4th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.9% (13th lowest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa3/Negative

Joblessness is more of a problem in Alaska than in any other state. The state’s annual unemployment rate is 6.6%, far higher than the 3.9% national rate in 2018. The strength of a job market can be closely tied to GDP growth, and Alaska has one of the slowest growing economies in the country. Alaska’s economy grew by 0.7% in 2018, a fraction of the 2.9% national GDP growth in 2018.

Crime tends to be more concentrated in areas with high unemployment, and not only does Alaska have the nation’s highest jobless rate, but it also has the highest violent crime rate. There were 885 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in the state in 2018, more than double 369 per 100,000 national violent crime rate.

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48. Mississippi
> 2018 unemployment: 4.8% (6th highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 61.6% (11th lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: 1.3% (9th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 19.7% (the highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa2/Stable

By several measures, Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the country. Mississippi’s GDP per capita of $34,434 is by far the lowest among the 50 states and about $22,500 less than the national GDP per capita figure of $56,968. It has the second lowest median household income of any state, at $44,717. Poverty is also relatively common among Mississippi residents as 19.7% of the state’s population lives below the poverty line, the highest poverty rate in the country.

The weak economic conditions in the state are likely partially attributable to a weak job market. Annual unemployment stands at 4.8% in Mississippi, well above the 3.9% 2018 national unemployment rate.

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49. Louisiana
> 2018 unemployment: 4.9% (4th highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 65.1% (20th lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: 2.6% (21st highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.6% (3rd highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa3/Positive

An average of 4.9% of Louisiana’s workforce was out of a job in 2018, one of the highest unemployment rates among states and well above the comparable 3.9% national rate. The weak job market likely explains the greater likelihood of serious financial hardship in the state. Louisiana’s 18.6% poverty rate is higher than that of every other state except for New Mexico and Mississippi.

Crime tends to be more heavily concentrated in areas with worse economies, and Louisiana is a relatively dangerous state. There were 538 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in the state in 2018, well above the 369 per 100,000 national violent crime rate.

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50. New Mexico
> 2018 unemployment: 4.9% (4th highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 62.5% (13th lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: 2.5% (23rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.5% (2nd highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa2/Stable

Based on an index of over a dozen socioeconomic measures, New Mexico ranks as the worst-run state in the country. New Mexico is one of the poorest states with 19.5% of the population living below the poverty line — the second highest poverty rate after only Mississippi. Due to the pervasiveness of serious financial hardship, 17.3% of state residents rely on SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, the highest recipiency rate of any state. A stronger job market could go a long way to reduce SNAP dependence and poverty. New Mexico’s annual unemployment rate of 4.9% is one of the highest in the country, and well above the 3.9% national rate.

Crime tends to be more heavily concentrated in areas with poor economic conditions, and not only does New Mexico have one of the nation’s highest jobless rates, but it also has the second highest violent crime rate. There were 857 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in the state in 2018, more than double 369 per 100,000 national violent crime rate.