The Hottest U.S. Economies and What’s Making Them Tick

Photo (cc) by Tim Evanson

The U.S. economy expanded by 2.2 percent overall last year, but that number — while painting a positive picture overall — doesn’t tell the whole story.

A state-by-state breakdown of real gross domestic product (GDP adjusted for inflation) reveals a patchwork of economies that are hot — and not — depending on an array of factors. Recently released findings from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis show that 48 states had an increase in real GDP — with one growing more than 6 percent in 2014. At the other end of the spectrum were two states that saw their economies shrink last year.

Read on to find out which states topped the list, and how your state measured up in terms of growth.

No. 1: North Dakota

Workers at the Bakken Oil Fields, the heart of North Dakota's fracking boom.
Workers at the Bakken Oil Fields, the heart of North Dakota’s fracking boom.

North Dakota’s growth can be summed up in one word: Fracking — the extraction of oil from shale by fracturing the rock with the aid of hydraulic pressure. The state enjoyed an explosive 6.3 percent growth rate, attributable largely to the fracking boom in the western part of the state.

A bit of perspective: Even though North Dakota’s growth outpaces the rest of the states, this is still a small economy in the overall picture. In 2014, the state produced about $48.2 billion worth of goods and services, a fraction of California’s $2.1 trillion.

No. 2: Texas

Houston, Texas, 2014.
Houston, Texas, 2014.

Texas, which grew by 5.2 percent in 2014, also saw a boom in mining and oil production. Nondurable goods (things expected to last for three years or less) manufacturing was another bright spot for the Lone Star state.

No. 3: Wyoming

Coal-laden train crossing Wyoming.
Coal-laden train crossing Wyoming.

Like North Dakota, Wyoming is a sparsely populated state, with a small economy which also enjoyed a boom year for mining. Wyoming grew by 5.1 percent.

No. 4: West Virginia

Coal conveyor at Nuttalberg, West Virginia.
Coal conveyor at Nuttalburg, West Virginia.

West Virginia was the fastest growing state east of the Appalachians, (or, more precisely, straddling them), with coal mining as the biggest driver. The state’s economy grew by 5.1 percent, almost exclusively from mining.

No. 5: Colorado

Suncor Refinery, Colorado.
Suncor Refinery, Commerce City, Colorado.

Colorado also owes its 2014 growth of 4.6 percent largely to mining.

No. 6: Oregon

Solar Cell manufacturing in Hillsboro, Oregon.
Solar Cell manufacturing in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Just missing the top five, here is a state where growth is based on something other than extracting resources from the ground. Oregon’s 3.6 percent expansion can be chalked up mostly to manufacture of durable goods — defined as things expected to last for three years or more.

No. 7: Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah.
Salt Lake City, Utah.

Utah’s economy grew by 3.1 percent last year. Professional, scientific and technical services topped the list, and mining came in second.

No. 8: Washington

Downtown Seattle, Wash., home to thriving computer and biotech industries.
Downtown Seattle, Wash., home to thriving computer and biotech industries.

Washington, which grew by 3 percent, saw the lion’s share of its expansion fueled by retail trade and information technology. Seattle-based online retail giant Amazon is one of the companies driving the boom.

No. 9: California

The view from Yahoo offices in San Francisco.
The view from Yahoo offices in San Francisco.

Among the top 10 fastest growing U.S. economies in 2014 were all three Pacific coast states, including California with a growth rate of 2.8 percent. Professional, scientific and technical services were the biggest contributors to this state’s expansion, and durable goods manufacturing was also important.

No. 10: Oklahoma

Oil rig at sunset.
Oil rig at sunset.

Oklahoma grew at 2.8 percent, due mostly to mining.

No. 11: Florida

Miami, Florida.
Miami, Florida.

Florida’s 2.7 percent growth rate was mostly from growth in real estate. Second was retail trade.

No. 12: Idaho

St. Luke's Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho.
St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho.

Idaho also grew at a 2.7 percent rate last year. Durable goods manufacturing was the fastest growing industry. Healthcare was number two.

No. 13: New York

Wall St., New York City.
Wall St., New York City.

The first mid-Atlantic economy to make the list, New York, grew by 2.5 percent in 2014. It’s biggest economic driver? Wall Street, along with the rest of the finance and insurance industry. Information was second.

No. 14: Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia, one of the American cities in competition for high-tech workers and startups.
Atlanta, Georgia, one of the American cities in competition for high-tech workers and startups.

Georgia grew by 2.3 percent, led by professional, scientific and technical services. Information was second.

No. 15: Massachusetts

Boston, Mass. on a winter night.
Boston, Mass. on a winter night.

New England gets a state on the board. Massachusetts’ 2.3 percent growth rate last year was led by the professional, scientific and technical services sector, with information a fairly distant second.

How the rest stacked up:

16. New Hampshire: 2.3 percent economic growth in 2014
17. South Carolina: 2.2 percent
18. Ohio: 2.1 percent
19. Louisiana: 1.9 percent
20. Michigan: 1.9 percent
21. Kansas: 1.8 percent
22. Pennsylvania: 1.8 percent
23. Montana: 1.8 percent
24. Tennessee: 1.7 percent
25. North Carolina: 1.4 percent
26. Arizona: 1.4 percent
27. Minnesota: 1.4 percent
28. Illinois: 1.2 percent
29. Rhode Island: 1.2 percent
30. Delaware: 1.2 percent
31. New Mexico: 1 percent
32. Wisconsin: 1 percent
33. Nevada: 1 percent
34. Kentucky: 1 percent
35. Missouri: 0.9 percent
36. Maryland: 0.8 percent
37. Hawaii: 0.8 percent
38. Arkansas: 0.8 percent
39. Nebraska: 0.7 percent
40. Alabama: 0.7 percent
41. South Dakota: 0.6 percent
42. Connecticut: 0.6 percent
43. Vermont: 0.6 percent
44. Indiana: 0.4 percent
45. Iowa: 0.4 percent
46. New Jersey: 0.4 percent
47. Maine: 0.2 percent
48. Virginia: zero percent
49. Mississippi: (-1.2) percent
50. Alaska: (-1.3) percent

What’s driving — or dragging down — the economy in your area? Share with us in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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