Ranking the Economic Health of Every U.S. State in 2019

The United States economy is on the verge of its longest economic expansion on record, but appears to be headed for a slowdown. So, what’s next for the United States economy? In this article we blend several key economic indicators to gauge the current health of each state as the country heads into uncertain economic times.

  • Six out of ten Americans are expecting a recession in the next year, along with three out of four economists in the next two
  • Job growth is slowing across the nation along with modest wage increases
  • Western states and the District of Columbia lead states in economic performance
  • Alaska, Rhode Island and southern states among the worst states economically

For this visualization we create a radar chart for each state to compare the following economic statistics as compiled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis: Wage growth, unemployment, job growth, GDP per capita, GDP growth and average weekly wages, adjusted by state purchasing power parity. We then derive a z-score for each indicator and blend the z-scores to calculate a total score for each state. To read more about how z-scores work, check out this guide.

Top 5 Best Economic Performing States

1. District of Columbia 
2. Washington 
3. Utah 
4. Colorado 
5. Nevada 

Top 5 Worst Economic Performing States

1. Alaska 
2. Rhode Island 
3. Mississippi 
4. Maryland 
5. Louisiana 

Much of the present uncertainty about the U.S. economy comes on the heels of the trade war with China. Economic growth is heading to 2%, compared to 3% at the start of the year and over 4% last year. On top of that, the last job updates showed mixed signals.  Nonfarm payrolls increased by just 130,000 in August, versus Wall Street estimates for 150,000. 25,000 of these positions came from temporary Census employment. On the other hand, average hourly earnings increased by 0.4% in August and 3.2% for the year, better than expected.

Despite that silver lining, Americans appear worried about their country’s economic well-being, with six out of ten expecting a recession in the next year. Their sentiment echos economists, three out of four in a recent survey predicted a U.S. recession in the next two years

All that being said, some states are in a better financial state than others. In particular, Washington State has the fastest economic growth of any state and even surpassed Massachusetts to become one of the country’s ten largest economies. Other states ranking high on our charts also come from the West —  Utah, Colorado and Nevada are among some of the fastest-growing populations in the country.

Among poorly-performing states, Alaska comes in first. Earlier we found that Alaska residents hold the highest credit card balance per capita, and is also one of the most expensive states to live in. It shares both of these qualities with the second worst state, Rhode Island.

Where does your state place in our rankings? What surprises you about the data? Leave your thoughts in the comments and share with your friends.

Data: Table 1.1 

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