Special Report

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

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6. Oregon
> 2019 unemployment: 3.7% (18th highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 82.1% (14th highest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +2.8% (12th highest)
> Poverty rate: 11.4% (24th lowest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa1/Stable

Oregon ranks as one of the best run states in the country in large part because of its positive financial outlook. Moody’s gave its seniormost tax backed bond an Aa1 rating, the second-best possible score, and said the state’s outlook is stable. The state’s current rainy day fund could cover 12.7% of the state’s general expenditures, the ninth highest share among states and well above the 8.7% average among states.

Oregon has ranked as one of the 10 best run states every year since 2016. The state’s job market has consistently improved, with the number of people employed growing by 9.0% from 2015 to 2019, the ninth largest increase of any state over that time.

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7. Nevada
> 2019 unemployment: 3.9% (15th highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 75.3% (23rd highest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +2.7% (13th highest)
> Poverty rate: 12.5% (21st highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa1/Negative

Nevada ranked as one of the five worst run states in the country in 2013. After years of steady improvement, it now ranks as one of the 10 best. Nevada is one of the fastest growing states in the country, with its population growing by 1.7% from 2018 to 2019, largely due to migration. Nationwide, the population increased by 0.5% during that same time period.

Nevada does not have a large amount of debt when compared to other states, at $1,116 per capita — the third lowest of any state. Its debt accounts for just 15.8% of revenue, compared to 44.6% in the typical state.

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8. Nebraska
> 2019 unemployment: 3.0% (14th lowest)
> Pension funded ratio: 90.3% (7th highest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +2.0% (20th highest)
> Poverty rate: 9.9% (11th lowest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa2/Stable

Nebraska has ranked as one of the 10 best run states each year since 2011. Though the state’s median household income of $63,229 is about $2,500 lower than the national median, residents are relatively unlikely to struggle financially. In 2019, Nebraska was one of just 11 states with a poverty rate under 10%. It also had a relatively low unemployment rate, at 3.0%. The national unemployment rate was 3.7% in 2019.

The cost of living is relatively low in Nebraska, as goods and services are about 10% cheaper in the state than they are nationwide.

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9. Florida
> 2019 unemployment: 3.1% (15th lowest)
> Pension funded ratio: 79.9% (19th highest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +2.8% (9th highest)
> Poverty rate: 12.7% (19th highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aaa/Stable

Florida’s economy has flourished in recent years. Total employment grew by 10.4% from 2015 to 2019, the fifth highest increase among states and well beyond the 6.4% growth nationwide. Florida’s real GDP increased 2.8% from 2018 to 2019, one of the 10 largest increases.

Owning a home is one of the most common and practical ways to build wealth as home values increase over time. Florida ranks as one of the best run states in part because of how much home values increased — by 36.3% from 2015 to 2019. Nationwide, home values rose by 23.7% over that time period.

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10. North Dakota
> 2019 unemployment: 2.4% (2nd lowest)
> Pension funded ratio: 65.2% (16th lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +0.9% (11th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.6% (17th lowest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa2/Stable

North Dakota’s GDP per capita is sixth in the nation at over $70,000. The national GDP per capita is just over $58,000..

North Dakota is an oil and gas powerhouse, and its exports per capita rank third in the nation at over $8,000 per person. However, the number of active drilling rigs declined sharply starting in 2015, and this is likely one reason why the state has had one of the worst job markets in the country in recent years. From 2015 to 2019, the number of jobs in North Dakota fell by 3.0%, more than any other state.