By several measures, the national economy is the strongest it has been in decades. The U.S. monthly unemployment rate now sits comfortably below 4%, and we are in the second longest period of GDP growth since World War II.
In most states, unemployment has improved in recent years as well, but that is not to say every state economy is equally healthy. Some states are experiencing an economic boom, while others continue to struggle with job losses, poor GDP growth, and poverty.
Economic vitality is as much about growth as it is about a state’s ability to support its population — with jobs, education, and economic opportunities. In turn, employed, better-paid, and better-educated residents contribute to economic growth.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed economic growth, poverty, unemployment, job growth, and college attainment rates to compare and rank state economies. The best ranked states tend to have fast-growing economies, low poverty and unemployment rates, high job growth, and a relatively well-educated workforce, while the opposite is generally the case among states with the worst ranked economies.
Residents of top-ranked state economies tend to be relatively affluent. Though the median household income was not used to rank states, it exceeds the national median in 9 of the 10 best state economies. A population with greater disposable income may be more able to purchase goods and services, which helps the success of local business.
“The national economy is continuing to recover, and some sectors are doing better than others,” Martin Kohli, chief regional economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, explained in a conversation with 24/7 Wall St. “Nationally, we’ve consistently seen relatively large job growth in health care, and relatively large growth in leisure and hospitality, and strong growth in professional and business services.” Many of the states with growing economies have outsized concentration of employment or strong growth in these industries. Click or swipe through to see them all.