Fifty Nifty United States Economy Rankings

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Which state do you think has the best economy? How about the worst? Where do you think your own state falls into the ranking?

It’s time to find out, because Business Insider just released a list of state economy rankings, based on a specific set of criteria:

We ranked the states’ economies on six measures: recent change in housing prices, nonfarm payroll job growth, unemployment rate, GDP per capita, average weekly wage, and state government surplus and deficit.

Coming in at #50 is Mississippi:

Mississippi came in dead last on three metrics: It had only 0.02% growth in nonfarm payrolls between December 2013 and December 2014; it had the highest December 2014 unemployment rate among the states at 7.2%; and it had the lowest 2013 GDP per capita of $32,421. It also finished second to last in Q2 2014 average weekly wages, at $705 a week.

Taking the top spot at #1 is—it’s going to be New York or California, right?—wait, it’s a surprise, it’s North Dakota:

The fracking boom in the Bakken shale has made North Dakota one of the most impressive economic stories of the past few years. Industries related to oil and gas are very overrepresented in North Dakota’s employment picture, and on the shoulders of this boom, North Dakota has the strongest economy of all the states.

I am stuck on the lyricism of “the fracking boom in the Bakken shale,” which sounds like something Dylan Thomas could have written. Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days of the fracking boom in the Bakken shale. National Geographic’s 2013 description of the fracking boom in the Bakken shale, however, is a very different kind of lyric:

A housing shortage so acute that men—and it’s still mostly men—are forced to sleep in their trucks or in overpriced motels; pay “gouge-zone” fees to park their campers, RVs, and house trailers; or live in one of the expensive prefab, dormlike “man camps” that serve as instant but sterile bedroom communities for towns and work sites. Streets clotted with noisy, exhaust-belching tanker trucks, gravel trucks, flatbeds, dump trucks, service trucks, and—the personal vehicle of choice in the oil patch—oversize, gas-gorging pickups. More crime, more highway accidents, more medical emergencies. People on fixed incomes forced to move because they can’t afford steep rent hikes. Overtaxed water and sewer systems. 

Now, it could be that things have gotten better in the past two years, or it could be that Business Insider ranked North Dakota #1 because its “December 2014 unemployment rate of 2.8% was also the best in the country” without checking to see whether those employed North Dakotans were living in their trucks. There are numbers and there are people, after all.

How do some of our other states fare? Washington State comes in at #6 thanks to tech and coffee. Oregon somehow slips in at #5, which doesn’t seem fair, because it only has trees and craft beer. Washington DC does not make the list—clearly an example of taxation without representation—and New York gets the #12 slot despite its “third-highest wages” because its housing prices did not rise as much as other states’.

California comes in at #4, almost entirely because of Silicon Valley. Missouri and Nebraska tie for #25. Maine is a surprising #49, especially because I always got the impression that there were a lot of people with high incomes living there.

Take a look at the list, and let us know where your state ranks and whether you are surprised by the ranking.

And for those of us who sang Fifty Nifty United States in school and will now be singing it all day: you’re welcome.

Photo credit: Tom

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