States Whose Economies Are Failing vs. States Whose Economies Are Thriving

·11 min read
Sanja Radin / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sanja Radin / Getty Images/iStockphoto

The swiftness with which the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the U.S. economy in early 2020 was breathtaking. Seemingly overnight, the U.S. unemployment rate shot up to an all-time record of 14.7% in April 2020. Both the overall rate of 14.7% and the 10.3% jump from the prior month were the highest on record since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping statistics in January 1948. Since then, the economy as a whole has been steadily improving, both in terms of the unemployment rate and year-over-year GDP. However, as the U.S. is such a large country, with a wide diversity of states and economies, the recovery has thus far been uneven. Some states have already come back nearly all the way to normal levels, while others have been stuck behind.

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To determine which economies are thriving and which are failing, GOBankingRates took a look at a variety of economic factors, from year-over-year GDP and unemployment rates to wage changes and the percentage of a state’s population that is living in poverty. States were divided into the top 15 and the bottom 15 and ranked in reverse order. Thus, the state in the worst current economic shape appears as No. 1 at the end of the “failing economies” section, while the only state in the nation thus far that shows a year-over-year percentage gain in employment appears as No. 1 under the “thriving economies” section.

Read on to find out which states are at the bottom and the top of this split recovery.

Last updated: Oct. 12, 2021

urbazon / Getty Images
urbazon / Getty Images

States Whose Economies Are Failing

These states have not yet been pulled up by the slow recovery in the American economy to the extent that some others have. Although overall unemployment trends are improving, residents of these states are still having trouble finding jobs and contributing to the state’s GDP.

See: How Do We Track Unemployment and Joblessness?

Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto

15. Arkansas

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 4.5%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -2.8%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $44,328

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 5.1%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $892

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 6.1%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 16.2%

Find Out: What the Unemployment Rate Means for You and the Economy

Daniel Hanscom / Getty Images
Daniel Hanscom / Getty Images

14. Rhode Island

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 7.3%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -8.7%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $58,245

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 2.6%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $1,092

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 10.4%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 10.8%

More: How To Be ‘Financially Resilient’ — Even in Times of Crisis

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DaveAlan / Getty Images

13. Oregon

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 6.1%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -7.8%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $62,109

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 2.7%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $1,113

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 7.4%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 11.4%

Get Started: Make a Debt-Free Future Your Reality

Pgiam / Getty Images
Pgiam / Getty Images

12. Illinois

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 7.4%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -7.5%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $69,422

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 3.5%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $1,199

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 6.8%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 11.5%

peeterv / Getty Images/iStockphoto
peeterv / Getty Images/iStockphoto

11. Pennsylvania

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 7.3%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -7.2%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $62,497

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 3.7%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $1,139

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 7.0%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 12.0%

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Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto

10. Michigan

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 5.2%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -7.5%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $53,008

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 1.7%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $1,096

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 7.5%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 13.0%

More: What It’s Like To Job Hunt During a Pandemic

RiverNorthPhotography / Getty Images
RiverNorthPhotography / Getty Images

9. Wyoming

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 5.3%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -5.2%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $63,772

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 3.8%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $939

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: -0.4%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 10.1%

Check Out: 6 Career Mistakes To Avoid During an Economic Downturn

hstiver / Getty Images/iStockphoto
hstiver / Getty Images/iStockphoto

8. Kentucky

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 5.2%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -5.1%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $48,655

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 4.3%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $935

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 5.8%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 16.3%

Read: 24 Ways To Stretch Your Unemployment Benefits

Kit Leong / Shutterstock.com
Kit Leong / Shutterstock.com

7. Nevada

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 8.3%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -10.6%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $60,028

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 4.2%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $1,048

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 7.8%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 12.5%

Maria_martinez / Shutterstock.com
Maria_martinez / Shutterstock.com

6. Oklahoma

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 4.4%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -5.4%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $48,508

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 3.5%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $917

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 2.3%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 15.2%

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AnnaGodfrey / Getty Images/iStockphoto
AnnaGodfrey / Getty Images/iStockphoto

5. Hawaii

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 9.2%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -17.8%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $63,826

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 2.1%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $1,114

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 10.3%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 9.3%

More: What Is the GDP – and What Does It Have to Do With You?

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JayL / Shutterstock.com

4. Mississippi

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 6.3%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -4.0%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $39,580

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 5.6%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $810

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 5.6%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 19.6%

Read: What Is Inflation and What Does It Mean When It Goes Up or Down?

Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto

3. West Virginia

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 6.2%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -5.5%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $41,798

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 3.4%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $913

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 1.8%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 16.0%

See: 16 Money Rules That Millionaires Swear By

SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images
SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images

2. Louisiana

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 7.6%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -7.8%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $53,229

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 3.0%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $970

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 5.2%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 19.0%

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Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto

1. New Mexico

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 8.3%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -8.9%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $49,050

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 2.5%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $944

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 5.1%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 18.2%

More: What You Actually Take Home From a $200,000 Salary in Every State

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FG Trade / Getty Images

States Whose Economies Are Thriving

If you live in one of these states, consider yourself lucky. Unemployment and GDP levels are recovering nicely in these areas. Here’s a look at the 15 states helping to lead America as a whole back to a full recovery.

Further Reading: Experts on What the Economy Will Be Like Post-Recovery

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Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

15. Kansas

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 3.2%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -4.9%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $61,274

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 4.0%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $952

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 6.6%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 11.4%

Read: How To Recover After a Long Stretch of Bad Financial Luck

SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images/iStockphoto
SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images/iStockphoto

14. Connecticut

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 8.5%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -7.2%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $80,816

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 7.0%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $1,328

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 7.4%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 10.0%

See: The 50 Cities Best Prepared To Reignite Their Economy and Job Market

benkrut / Getty Images/iStockphoto
benkrut / Getty Images/iStockphoto

13. Delaware

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 6.3%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -5.2%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $81,158

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 5.8%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $1,150

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 6.8%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 11.3%

Check Out: Where Our Economy Is One Year After Life Changed, According to Experts

Kirkikis / Getty Images
Kirkikis / Getty Images

12. Virginia

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 5.2%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -4.8%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $66,997

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 4.7%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $1,201

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 6.4%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 9.9%

More: US Companies Added Most Jobs Since September Last Month

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pabradyphoto / Getty Images/iStockphoto

11. Iowa

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 3.6%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -5.1%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $63,688

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 6.3%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $969

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 6.0%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 11.2%

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sborisov / Getty Images/iStockphoto

10. Maryland

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 6.2%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -6.0%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $71,926

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 3.6%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $1,277

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 9.5%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 9.0%

Read: 24% of Unemployed Americans Haven’t Worked in a Year

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culbertson / Getty Images/iStockphoto

9. Minnesota

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 4.3%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -7.0%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $69,290

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 4.7%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $1,178

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 6.4%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 9.0%

See: Don’t Let the Pandemic Keep You from Your Tax Refund – Here’s How to File Fast (and Free)

Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto

8. District of Columbia

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 8.1%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -8.9%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $210,453

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 1.2%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $1,962

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 6.1%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 13.5%

Depressed: 30 Places in America That Are Getting Poorer

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christiannafzger / Getty Images/iStockphoto

7. Idaho

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 3.3%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: 1.0%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $50,856

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 5.4%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $884

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 5.5%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 11.2%

More: What Homes Will Be Worth in Your State by the End of 2021

Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto

6. Massachusetts

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 7.1%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -8.7%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $87,374

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 4.7%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $1,488

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 9.7%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 9.4%

Read: How Long $1 Million in Savings Will Last in Every State

gregobagel / Getty Images
gregobagel / Getty Images

5. Washington

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 5.6%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -6.0%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $86,167

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 1.8%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $1,482

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 11.0%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 9.8%

See: The Most Undervalued Stocks So Far in 2021

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DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images/iStockphoto

4. Nebraska

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 3.1%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -2.9%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $69,500

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 6.3%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $964

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 6.4%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 9.9%

Check Out: By the Numbers: The COVID-19 Economy 1 Year Later

DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images/iStockphoto
DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images/iStockphoto

3. New Hampshire

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 3.3%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -5.4%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $64,757

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 3.8%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $1,171

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 8.9%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 7.3%

Get Started: Make a Debt-Free Future Your Reality

James Gabbert / Shutterstock.com
James Gabbert / Shutterstock.com

2. South Dakota

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 2.9%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: -2.5%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $65,632

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 9.9%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $918

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 7.2%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 11.9%

Your Money: Stay on Track With the Financial Stability Roadmap

Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sean Pavone / Getty Images/iStockphoto

1. Utah

  • Feb. 2021 unemployment rate: 3.0%

  • Year-over-year change in unemployment Feb. 2021: 0.4%

  • Q4 2020 GDP per capita: $65,494

  • GDP growth Q3 2020-Q4 2020: 7.1%

  • Average weekly wages Sept. 2020: $1,015

  • Percent change in average weekly wages Sept. 2019-Sept. 2020: 6.1%

  • Percent of population below poverty line 2019: 8.9%

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Methodology: GOBankingRates analyzed the following seven factors for each state and the District of Columbia to gauge the health of their economies: (1) the February 2021 unemployment rate according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) Local Area Unemployment Statistics data; (2) the year-over-year change in nonfarm payroll jobs as of February 2021 according to the BLS's State and Metro Area Employment, Hours, & Earnings data; (3) the Q4 2020 GDP per capita in current dollars, calculated by using population data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) 2019 5-year estimates and the Bureau of Economic Analysis's (BEA) most recent GDP by State release; (4) the percent by which GDP grew between the third and fourth quarters of 2020, also according to the BEA's GDP release; (5) the average weekly wage in September 2020 according to the BLS's Economic News Release; (6) the percent change in the average weekly wage between September 2019 and September 2020, also according to the BLS Economic News Release; and (7) the percent of the population that was living below the poverty line in 2019, according to the Census Bureau's 2019 ACS 1-year data. States were scored on all factors and ranked against each other based on their combined total score. The states with the lowest combined scores were identified as states with thriving economies and the states with the highest combined scores were identified as states with failing economies. All data was collected on and up to date as of March 29, 2021.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: States Whose Economies Are Failing vs. States Whose Economies Are Thriving

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