Is your state a drag on the American economy or a boon? The 50 states — as diverse as they are — each contribute something to the U.S. economy. Because of their diversity, state economies rarely trend in unison. GDP growth is often the default measure for economic strength, but it often fails to tell the whole story. Unemployment, poverty, job growth, and education among other factors can also play a part in defining the strength of an economy.
Economic vitality is as much about growth as it is about the state’s ability to support its population — with jobs, education, economic opportunities and more. In turn, employed, better-paid, and better-educated residents of a state further contribute to economic growth.
> 2016 GDP: $172.98 billion (22nd smallest)
> 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: 0.9% (tied–12th smallest growth)
> Unemployment: 5.0% (5th highest)
> 5 yr. annual employment growth: 1.4% (24th slowest growth)
Kentucky’s economy has expanded by a rate of 0.9% a year since 2011, less than half the 2.0% annual national growth rate over that time. Once a source of major economic growth and steady employment, the state’s coal industry has been shedding jobs for years and continues to decline. In 2016 alone, Kentucky’s mining industry shed 3,500 jobs. High-growth industries such as information and professional services employ relatively small share of workers in the state. Kentucky also struggles with unemployment and poverty. Some 5.0% of workers in the state are unemployed, and 18.5% of residents live in poverty, each the sixth largest share of any state.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed economic growth, poverty, unemployment, job growth, and college attainment rates nationwide to compare and rank each state’s economy. As a result, the best ranked states tend to have fast-growing economies, low poverty and unemployment, high job growth, and a relatively well-educated workforce, while the opposite is generally the case among states with the worst ranked economies.