The 25 Hottest State Economies in America

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Worker In Warehouse
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America, you’ve come a long way in 10 years.

Back in 2009, the nation was just emerging from the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression. There wasn’t a lot of hope in the air.

Flash forward a decade: Despite some signs of economic softness here and there, the country continues to chug ahead in what has become the longest economic expansion in modern American history.

Yes, times are much better today. And some states are doing particularly well.

WalletHub recently compared data across the 50 states and ranked the states according to 28 key indicators of economic activity, economic health and innovation potential. As the website says:

“Our data set ranges from GDP growth to startup activity to share of jobs in high-tech industries.”

Then, WalletHub gave each state an overall score and ranked the states according to their overall score.

Western states dominate the list, taking six of the top seven slots in the survey.

Following is a look at the 25 hottest state economies in the U.S., according to the WalletHub analysis.

25. Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Sean Pavone /

State’s total score: 44.92 out of 100

Pennsylvania’s economy is ranked smack in the middle of the nation’s 50 states. In June, the state’s unemployment rate was 3.8%, just a tick above the nation’s 3.7% unemployment rate.

The Keystone State is home to one of the nation’s leading business schools — the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School — as well as Fortune 500 companies such as Comcast, Rite Aid and Kraft Heinz.

24. Delaware

New Jersey from Delaware
Felix Mizioznikov /

State’s total score: 45.94 out of 100

Last November, Forbes reported that Delaware’s economy was gaining steam. Forbes also noted that Delaware’s corporate law is so friendly to businesses that more than 50% of U.S. publicly traded companies are incorporated in the state.

Delaware’s major industries include agriculture, fishing, manufacturing and mining.

23. Missouri

Lane V. Erickson /

State’s total score: 45.95 out of 100

The Show Me State is putting on a display, racking up more than two consecutive years of an unemployment rate that is lower than the national average. The rate was 3.3% in June compared with the national unemployment rate of 3.7%.

The Missouri Times reported in July that job gains over the past year have been strong in areas such as:

  • Health care and social assistance
  • Accommodation and food services
  • Professional, scientific and technical services

22. Wisconsin

Lorraine Swanson /

State’s total score: 45.96 out of 100

In 2018, Wisconsin boasted its best year of gross domestic product (GDP) growth since 2010, when the state was emerging from the Great Recession. In fact, experts say one of the state’s biggest concerns right now is finding people to fill job openings.

21. Tennessee

Street scene, Memphis, Tennessee.
f11photo /

State’s total score: 46.48 out of 100

Things are looking good in Tennessee. A recent survey of the state’s business leaders found a deep well of optimism about both the state and national economies.

And the news just keeps getting better. In July, Mitsubishi Motors said it would relocate its North American headquarters from California to Tennessee, where taxes are lower.

20. New Jersey

Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey
ESB Professional /

State’s total score: 46.85 out of 100

The Garden State is home to 19 Fortune 500 companies. Some of the largest employers in New Jersey include Wakefern Food Corp., Barnabas Health and United Parcel Service.

Recently, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority approved a proposal to organize a New Jersey chapter of Golden Seeds. The national network is made up of “angel investors” who put their money into startup companies led by women.

19. Nevada

tusharkoley /

State’s total score: 47.06 out of 100

Nevada is no stranger to people who roll the dice in hopes of making their financial dreams come true. Right now, Lady Luck appears to be on the side of the state’s businesses.

Henderson is one of the Nevada cities that are booming. According to Henderson Economic Development Director Ken Chapa:

“The business climate here is better. We’ve enjoyed some natural assets, the competitive advantage of being close to places like Phoenix and Salt Lake City, but we’re really seeing a big draw coming from California. Employers are looking to their eastern neighbor, where their employees can actually afford housing.”

18. New York

Pizza kitchen in New York
ChameleonsEye /

State’s total score: 49.88 out of 100

The beat goes on in New York, despite the Empire State’s thorny breakup with Amazon. Earlier this year, the retail giant pulled out of an agreement to build a corporate campus in Queens that would have brought in around 25,000 new jobs.

Despite that setback, New York City remains one of the richest cities in the world, and the state’s economy based on GDP — third in the U.S., behind California and Texas — is roughly the size of Canada’s.

17. Florida

Levranii /

State’s total score: 50.74 out of 100

Things are looking bright in the Sunshine State. In addition to having the nation’s fourth-largest economy based on GDP, Florida is poised to do even better in the future.

In fact, Florida’s economy is expected to more than double over the next 30 years, according to a recent report from the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Forecasting.

16. Virginia

Bruce Ellis /

State’s total score: 51.33 out of 100

Virginia is a great place to do business. In fact, CNBC recently named Virginia as the best state in the nation for businesses — the fourth time the Old Dominion has topped the list in the past 13 years.

15. Maryland

Mark A Lee /

State’s total score: 51.71 out of 100

During America’s early years, one crop — tobacco — dominated the Maryland economy. But times have changed, and today growth is concentrated in areas such as government, construction, trade and services.

14. Minnesota

Paul Bunyon statue in Minnesota
Edgar Lee Espe /

State’s total score: 51.84 out of 100

Year after year, Minnesota’s economy has done well. And the North Star State ranks high in the WalletHub survey.

But there are storm clouds on the horizon. During the first quarter of 2019, Minnesota recorded a GDP gain of 2.6% — significantly below the national gain of 3.1%, and 37th among the 50 states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

13. Georgia / Money Talks News

State’s total score: 53.27 out of 100

Georgia remains the economic heartbeat of the South. The population of Atlanta has doubled over the past three decades, and the state is home to key e-commerce and traditional retail distribution facilities.

Even recent trade tensions cannot slow growth in Georgia. The state’s Savannah port notched a record fiscal year for container traffic for the 12 months ending in June.

12. Michigan

Ann Arbor, Michigan car show
Susan Montgomery /

State’s total score: 53.87 out of 100

Like other states, Michigan has rebounded well from the depths of the Great Recession, which lasted from late 2007 to mid-2009. Unemployment is low, and jobs lost during that downturn largely have been regained.

But the state’s economic fate remains tied to the health of the auto industry, which is cyclical.

11. Texas

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State’s total score: 55.17 out of 100

Folks say things are bigger in Texas, and that includes the size of the economy based on GDP, which is the nation’s second-largest.

However, recent trade tensions have raised worries in the Lone Star State, according to Pia Orrenius, a vice president and senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas:

“Texas is very exposed to global developments, so tariffs are a challenge for us. There is a lot of pessimism. Risks to the outlook are really tilted to the downside.”

10. Arizona

Hikers in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona
Maridav /

State’s total score: 55.54 out of 100

Business is sizzling in Arizona, where a combination of population growth and new jobs have stoked the overall economy. In 2018, Arizona had the fourth-best GDP growth of any state in the nation, and the Grand Canyon State has added nearly 300,000 jobs since 2015.

9. North Carolina

Kevin M. McCarthy /

State’s total score: 55.90 out of 100

Thinking of starting a new business? Keep your eyes on North Carolina. Earlier this year, the Tar Heel State lowered its corporate tax rate from 3% to 2.5%. That is the lowest such rate in the nation.

The state also has a highly educated workforce, and is home to around five dozen four-year colleges and universities.

8. New Hampshire

Kenneth Keifer /

State’s total score: 56.75 out of 100

New Hampshire ranks as the fourth-most prosperous state in the nation, according to the latest annual United States Prosperity Index report from the Legatum Institute, a London-based think tank.

Top industries in the state include smart manufacturing/high technology, tourism and health care.

7. Oregon

Salem, Oregon
James Curzio /

State’s total score: 56.83 out of 100

Job growth continues in Oregon, with about 46,000 positions added since June 2018. The unemployment rate remains at a record low in the state.

But Oregon’s economy is deeply dependent on trade, raising concerns among the state’s leaders during this period of trade tensions.

6. Idaho

Idaho fly fishing
Kuznetcov_Konstantin /

State’s total score: 58.23 out of 100

Idaho’s unemployment rate has been below 3% for 19 consecutive months, a reflection of the health of the Gem State’s economy. In June alone, more than 30,000 new Idaho-based jobs were posted online. That number dipped — but only slightly — in July.

5. Colorado

Yarek Gora /

State’s total score: 63.79 out of 100

Colorado’s economy has done well in recent years, and in June the state’s unemployment rate was a mere 3%. By comparison, the national unemployment rate was 3.7% in June.

But in a recent survey, state business leaders worried that a lack of bipartisanship — at both the state and national levels — could mean the good times may not last.

4. California

Hollywood sign
bannosuke /

State’s total score: 69.13 out of 100

California has the nation’s biggest economy. However, the state’s economy has cooled recently. In fact, the Golden State’s GDP growth was 2.7% in the first quarter of the year. That is below the national average of 3.1% for the same period and ranks 29th among all states.

3. Massachusetts

Lighthouse in Massachusetts
Newcastle /

State’s total score: 70.23 out of 100

Massachusetts is a hub for high-tech jobs — and in the 21st century, that is a recipe for success.

In fact, the Bay State is doing so well that, as 2019 dawned, it was having a tough time finding workers to fill open job slots. According to Alan Clayton-Matthews, MassBenchmarks senior contributing editor and associate professor of economics and public policy at Northeastern University:

“The demographics of an aging population suggest that annual labor force growth may slow to half a percentage point going forward.”

2. Utah

mariakraynova /

State’s total score: 73.51 out of 100

The high-tech industry is boosting Utah’s economy to new levels. The technology sector was responsible for 1 in 7 jobs in the state last year, according to research by the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

High-tech wages accounted for more than 16% of all worker earnings, and the sector generated more than $2.5 billion in state and local tax money.

1. Washington

Tacoma, Washington
Druid007 /

State’s total score: 77.60 out of 100

Washington had the fastest-growing economy in the nation during 2018, growing output by 5.7% from the previous year, after adjustments for inflation. That is nearly double the national rate.

The Washington Post notes that the Evergreen State has “been on a tear” since 2014 and has leapfrogged the economies of Michigan, Virginia and North Carolina in that time.

What’s the secret to Washington’s success? According to the Post:

“Unsurprisingly, the biggest boost to Washington’s economy came from the information services and retail sectors, industries which include fast-growing, globe-spanning behemoths Microsoft and Amazon.”

How are things going in your state? Let us know in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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