Special Report

The States With the Best and Worst Economies

Consumer economies — like that of the United States, where consumer spending accounts for 70% of economic activity — are highly exposed to slowdown in a pandemic. Since the coronavirus reached American shores, the U.S. has shed millions of jobs, and GDP plummeted by nearly a third in a single quarter, the largest decline on record. 

Leading up to the pandemic, the U.S. economy was, by many indicators, relatively healthy. Unemployment was at historic lows, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was hovering near record highs, and GDP had grown for the longest consecutive period in history. 

The current recession has not affected each state equally. Some states have suffered far steeper job losses than others. Similarly, strong economic growth in recent years, as well as more financially secure populations, meant that some states were better equipped to absorb the shock of COVID-19 than others. 

To determine the states with the best and worst economies, both in the years leading up to the pandemic and during it, 24/7 Wall St. created an index of four measures — economic growth, employment growth, the poverty rate, and the unemployment rate. Data came from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the U.S. Census Bureau

Due to the unemployment crisis caused by the pandemic, the June unemployment rate is higher in nearly every state than it was in June 2019. In all but a dozen states, overall employment is lower than it was at the same time in 2015. Several of the states where the largest share of jobs have disappeared have economies that are heavily dependent on industries susceptible to slowdown during the pandemic, such as tourism and oil extraction. Here is a look at the U.S. industries being devastated by the coronavirus

It is important to note that the time period states were ranked for GDP growth — the first quarter of 2015 through the first quarter in 2020 — does not account for much of the period since the pandemic was declared a national emergency in mid-March. Still, this measure, in addition to the poverty rate, is indicative of the overall economic health and financial security of state residents going into the pandemic. Here is a look at the place in every state where COVID-19 is growing fastest.

Click here to see the states with the best and worst economies
Click here to read our methodology