Special Report

How New Jersey's Economy Compares to Other States

The COVID-19 pandemic sent economic shockwaves through the U.S. economy, tripling the monthly unemployment to nearly 15% and leading to a more than 30% quarterly decline in GDP — by far the largest economic contraction in U.S. history.

No corner of the country was untouched by the pandemic’s economic consequences — but some states have emerged better off than others. A range of factors, including industrial diversity, labor force education levels, household income, and long-term GDP growth, have an effect on a state’s overall economic strength — and its ability to withstand the impact of the pandemic.

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 five measures — five-year economic growth, five-year employment growth, the poverty rate, unemployment rate, and share of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

With a higher than average per capita infection rate and a nation-leading death rate, New Jersey has been hit hard by COVID-19. The pandemic has also had devastating consequences for the state’s economy. Due to job losses during the pandemic, there are about 320,600 fewer jobs in the state than there were at this time last year. Currently, New Jersey’s unemployment rate of 7.7% is seventh highest among states and well above the 6.0% national rate.

Despite the economic damage wrought by the pandemic, other aspects of New Jersey’s economy are signs of strength. Home to one of the best-educated workforces in the country, New Jersey is one of only four states where more than 40% of adults have a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, only 9.2% of New Jersey residents live below the poverty line, well below the 12.3% national poverty rate.

All index components used to create this ranking were included at equal weight. All data used to create the index came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. Additional state level data on economic output by industry from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. This is how all 50 state economies rank.

Rank State Poverty rate March 2021 unemployment rate Avg. annual employment chg., March 2016 to March 2021 Avg. annual GDP chg., Q4 2015 to Q4 2020
1 Utah 8.9% 2.9% +2.0% +3.9%
2 Idaho 11.2% 3.2% +2.3% +3.9%
3 Washington 9.8% 5.4% +1.2% +4.3%
4 Colorado 9.3% 6.4% +1.4% +2.8%
5 New Hampshire 7.3% 3.0% +0.2% +0.6%
6 Nebraska 9.9% 2.9% +0.0% +1.2%
7 Minnesota 9.0% 4.2% -0.1% +1.1%
8 Massachusetts 9.4% 6.8% +0.2% +1.4%
9 Georgia 13.3% 4.5% +1.7% +2.2%
10 Oregon 11.4% 6.0% +0.9% +2.8%
11 Virginia 9.9% 5.1% -0.2% +1.2%
12 Kansas 11.4% 3.7% +0.2% +1.1%
13 Montana 12.6% 3.8% +0.5% +1.2%
14 South Dakota 11.9% 2.9% +0.6% +0.8%
15 Florida 12.7% 4.7% +0.9% +2.2%
16 Maryland 9.0% 6.2% -0.6% +1.0%
17 Arizona 13.5% 6.7% +1.9% +2.9%
18 Wisconsin 10.4% 3.8% -0.2% +0.8%
19 Vermont 10.2% 2.9% -1.9% -0.1%
20 North Carolina 13.6% 5.2% +0.8% +1.7%
21 Indiana 11.9% 3.9% +0.1% +1.5%
22 South Carolina 13.8% 5.1% +0.9% +1.8%
23 Maine 10.9% 4.8% -0.7% +1.0%
24 Alabama 15.5% 3.8% +1.3% +1.1%
25 Tennessee 13.9% 5.0% +1.2% +1.0%
26 Missouri 12.9% 4.2% -0.0% +0.7%
27 New Jersey 9.2% 7.7% -0.9% +0.3%
28 Iowa 11.2% 3.7% -0.9% +0.3%
29 Ohio 13.1% 4.7% +0.0% +0.7%
30 North Dakota 10.6% 4.4% -0.6% -0.4%
31 Texas 13.6% 6.9% +0.6% +1.7%
32 California 11.8% 8.3% -0.6% +2.4%
33 Delaware 11.3% 6.5% +0.4% -0.6%
34 Nevada 12.5% 8.1% +1.5% +1.9%
35 Michigan 13.0% 5.1% -0.6% +0.4%
36 Wyoming 10.1% 5.3% -0.4% -1.6%
37 Rhode Island 10.8% 7.1% -0.8% -0.5%
38 Oklahoma 15.2% 4.2% +0.4% -0.6%
39 Pennsylvania 12.0% 7.3% -0.8% +0.6%
40 Illinois 11.5% 7.1% -1.6% +0.2%
41 New York 13.0% 8.5% -0.8% +0.8%
42 Arkansas 16.2% 4.4% +0.1% +0.6%
43 Alaska 10.1% 6.6% -0.8% -0.8%
44 Connecticut 10.0% 8.3% -2.4% +0.1%
45 Kentucky 16.3% 5.0% -0.1% +0.5%
46 Hawaii 9.3% 9.0% -2.1% -0.5%
47 West Virginia 16.0% 5.9% +0.3% -0.2%
48 New Mexico 18.2% 8.3% -0.1% +1.1%
49 Mississippi 19.6% 6.3% +0.1% +0.5%
50 Louisiana 19.0% 7.3% -0.8% +0.3%