Richest and poorest states in America

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November 5, 2020
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Richest and poorest states in America

The economies of U.S. states have been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, which broke out in earnest in March of 2020 and devastated many state budgets in subsequent months.

States with a heavy reliance on a single industry have fared poorly. West Virginia was already suffering from a decline in the coal industry, while oil- and natural gas-producing states like Oklahoma and North Dakota saw the bottom drop out of the energy market. At one point, Wyoming’s oil and gas rig count—a number used to measure the energy industry’s health—fell to zero.

States like Arkansas and South Carolina rely on poultry production, and saw demand for chicken plummet when restaurants, schools, and hotels closed across the country due to COVID-19 related shutdowns. Similar misfortune befell Louisiana, with its outsize economic reliance on seafood production, as well as Montana, Kansas, and Texas, when the markets for beef cattle, wheat, and cotton sank.

States with concerns in heavy manufacturing like Washington and Tennessee suffered as global demand for transportation-related equipment like airplanes evaporated.

States that rely on tourism business to survive are in dire shape, which can be seen in Nevada’s empty casinos, Alaska’s lack of cruise ships, and Hawaii, where the number of visitors at mid-year was down by 99%.

Dramatic economic changes are likely. Online shopping may have knocked down many brick-and-mortar businesses for good, and many companies in manufacturing and industrial sectors are pondering so-called reshoring, bringing production and sourcing back to North America to avoid the international supply chain disruptions they face during the pandemic.

Many economists see what they call a K-shaped recession, in which workers with more education and higher pay make gains while those with low skills and low wages lose ground. Hiring has slowed, and consumer spending is iffy as fears of a winter spike in infection rates and the gaping wait for a vaccine cast a sense of gloom over the future.

Stacker took a look at the economies in U.S. states and the District of Columbia, with statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau's most recent 5-Year American Community Survey, released in December 2019, to rank them according to median household income. The survey includes 5-year estimates data profiles from 2014-2018. It also includes statistics on median earnings, unemployment rate, health insurance coverage, and poverty level. Please note that since these statistics were counted and released before the COVID-19 pandemic, household incomes, unemployment rates, and poverty levels in each state have likely changed dramatically.

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#51. Mississippi

- Median household income: $43,567 (27.7% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 113,175 (10.2%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 29,768 (2.7%)
- Median earnings for workers: $28,943 (male: $43,053; female: $32,928)
- Unemployment rate: 8.2%
- Families with income below poverty level: 15.9%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 87.3%

Mississippi has lagged behind its neighbors in terms of job growth in recent years, and its jobless rate is typically among the country’s highest. A key factor is education—the state is among the least educated in terms of residents with high school diplomas and college degrees, and its students fare poorly on advancement placement exams.

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#50. West Virginia

- Median household income: $44,921 (25.5% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 65,896 (9.0%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 19,616 (2.7%)
- Median earnings for workers: $29,552 (male: $47,903; female: $33,884)
- Unemployment rate: 6.7%
- Families with income below poverty level: 13.0%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 93.5%

In the second poorest state in the nation, the median household income is more than a quarter less than the rest of the country. Its labor force participation rate at 53.8% is the lowest in the country, where the rate is 61.4% overall. Labor-force participation reflects the percentage of the state’s civilian population that is working or looking for work, indicating the number of people unable or unwilling to work. West Virginia has been hit by a loss of manufacturing jobs and the decline in the nation’s coal industry.

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#49. Arkansas

- Median household income: $45,726 (24.2% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 93,423 (8.1%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 37,690 (3.3%)
- Median earnings for workers: $29,333 (male: $42,245; female: $34,351)
- Unemployment rate: 5.5%
- Families with income below poverty level: 12.9%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 91.0%

About a third of Arkansas is farmland, and about two-third’s of the state’s agricultural economy involves livestock production, particularly chicken. The state has almost 6,000 poultry farms and several dozen poultry processing plants that employ about 40,000 workers. The market for chicken has weakened in large part due to a drop in demand by restaurants, schools, and hotels, due to COVID-19 related shutdowns. Its major crop is rice, and the state produces about half the nation’s rice crop. But this year's crop suffered due to a spate of hurricanes and tropical storms in its recent growing season.

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#48. Louisiana

- Median household income: $47,942 (20.5% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 167,068 (9.6%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 74,483 (4.3%)
- Median earnings for workers: $30,994 (male: $51,477; female: $35,265)
- Unemployment rate: 6.9%
- Families with income below poverty level: 14.6%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 89.3%

Louisiana leads the country in shrimp production and is one of the top states in commercial fishing. Its significant fish and seafood products are catfish, crayfish, and oysters. The impact of COVID-19 hit fisheries hard, with dampened businesses for recreational fishing and a serious decline in demand from restaurants. The seafood industry was already hurting from the 2019 opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway—a flood prevention maneuver that poured fresh water into saltwater fisheries—and from international competition.

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#47. New Mexico

- Median household income: $48,059 (20.3% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 71,461 (9.2%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 28,863 (3.7%)
- Median earnings for workers: $27,989 (male: $44,133; female: $35,890)
- Unemployment rate: 7.2%
- Families with income below poverty level: 15.3%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 89.3%

Tourism, along with oil and gas production, is critical to New Mexico’s economy. Hospitality, tourism, and restaurant businesses have been hammered by the pandemic’s impact, forcing widespread job losses among low-skilled and unskilled workers who have few other employment options. Over the summer, 40% of the state’s 3,500 restaurants were closed at least temporarily, and consumer spending was down significantly. New Mexico also is a major producer of crude oil and natural gas, but with the drop of the price of oil and revenue from lease fees, royalties and taxes have dropped as well.

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#46. Kentucky

- Median household income: $48,392 (19.7% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 152,774 (8.8%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 61,071 (3.5%)
- Median earnings for workers: $30,294 (male: $46,694; female: $36,777)
- Unemployment rate: 6.1%
- Families with income below poverty level: 13.5%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 93.9%

Kentucky had serious hardships like joblessness and poverty before COVID-19’s impact made matters even worse. More than a quarter of residents said they were having trouble paying their usual household expenses, according to U.S. Census Bureau data from late October. The state’s automaking factories closed due to COVID-19, and miners in the coal-producing eastern region, already in decline, were laid off. Livestock, another mainstay of the economy—including thoroughbred horses and beef cattle—is in trouble. Cattle prices plunged during the pandemic, putting many ranching businesses in danger.

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#45. Alabama

- Median household income: $48,486 (19.6% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 163,312 (8.8%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 69,504 (3.7%)
- Median earnings for workers: $30,356 (male: $48,414; female: $35,751)
- Unemployment rate: 6.6%
- Families with income below poverty level: 13.0%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 90.0%

Alabama’s economy is expected to contract due to the coronavirus after growing more than 2% in each of the last two years. But it could head toward recovery by the first half of 2021, according to a recent forecast by economists at the University of Alabama. However, they cautioned that nearly 1.2 million people, or almost 60% of the non-farming labor force, are employed in education, food service, travel, automotive businesses, and manufacturing—all industries at risk of further declines due to the pandemic.

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#44. Tennessee

- Median household income: $50,972 (15.5% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 190,342 (7.4%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 110,584 (4.3%)
- Median earnings for workers: $30,695 (male: $45,641; female: $36,861)
- Unemployment rate: 5.9%
- Families with income below poverty level: 11.9%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 89.9%

More than a quarter million jobs were lost in Tennessee from May 2019 to May 2020, due mostly to the pandemic. Job losses were significant in the manufacturing of transportation equipment, plastics, and rubber, and in leisure and hospitality, which comprised almost half of the jobs lost. According to government-funded research, working from home could cause further declines in businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and maintenance services, affecting low-skilled workers. The possibility of reshoring—moving industry to the United States from overseas—could boost Tennessee’s manufacturing of transportation equipment, chemicals, and medical equipment.

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#43. South Carolina

- Median household income: $51,015 (15.4% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 145,418 (7.7%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 76,628 (4.0%)
- Median earnings for workers: $30,081 (male: $45,709; female: $35,985)
- Unemployment rate: 6.4%
- Families with income below poverty level: 11.7%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 89.0%

More than a quarter of South Carolina's agricultural revenues come from broiler chicken production: It also grows greenhouse and nursery products and peaches. It also is a major mining producer of mica, vermiculite and kaolin, a type of clay. Recovery from the economic impact of COVID-19 slowed in midsummer due to spikes in infection rates and the exhaustion of federal benefits, according to economists at the University of South Carolina. At the end of September, 62% of jobs lost in March and April had been recovered, but the state’s tourism and hospitality industries and its small businesses remained weak.

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#42. Oklahoma

- Median household income: $51,424 (14.7% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 104,686 (7.1%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 59,235 (4.0%)
- Median earnings for workers: $30,646 (male: $46,956; female: $35,056)
- Unemployment rate: 5.3%
- Families with income below poverty level: 11.6%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 85.8%

A global decline in demand for commodities has hit the economy of Oklahoma, a major producer of beef, hogs, and wheat, as well as oil and natural gas. Jobs in the state’s oil and gas sector, which was weakening before the pandemic, fell almost 30% after the outbreak began.

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#41. North Carolina

- Median household income: $52,413 (13.1% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 266,502 (6.8%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 191,936 (4.9%)
- Median earnings for workers: $31,147 (male: $46,083; female: $38,465)
- Unemployment rate: 6.3%
- Families with income below poverty level: 11.2%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 88.9%

The economic impact of COVID-19 ended a decade-long expansion in North Carolina. The state is the nation's top producer of tobacco products, and it also manufactures chemicals and is home to large banking companies. One leading forecast said it is likely to take until early 2022 before the state’s gross domestic product comes near the level it enjoyed at the end of 2019. Hardest hit have been the state’s hospitality and leisure industries, as well as educational and health services.

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#40. Montana

- Median household income: $52,559 (12.8% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 27,058 (6.4%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 16,939 (4.0%)
- Median earnings for workers: $28,806 (male: $47,287; female: $35,665)
- Unemployment rate: 4.2%
- Families with income below poverty level: 8.5%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 89.8%

More than 60% of Montana residents were living in households that were behind in rent or mortgage payments and facing likely eviction, according to data collected at the end of October. Some 33,000 Montana households were not able to pay the previous month’s rent in October, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The state’s economy is reliant on production of beef production, wheat, barley, and hay, plus petroleum refineries and coal and talc mining.

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#39. Idaho

- Median household income: $53,089 (11.9% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 38,492 (6.2%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 22,323 (3.6%)
- Median earnings for workers: $28,100 (male: $46,831; female: $34,943)
- Unemployment rate: 4.7%
- Families with income below poverty level: 9.6%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 89.0%

Idaho’s economy has grown increasingly global in recent years, with companies such as Boise’s Micron Technology making semiconductors, which is also the state’s largest export. Idaho’s exports fell by a third this year during the pandemic. As to its traditional economy, the market for potatoes took a hard hit in the spring with a drop in demand from restaurants, schools, and other institutions. But demand for potatoes recovered somewhat with panic-buying by Americans who raided store shelves for staples, and also as restaurants started reopening in some areas around the country.

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#38. Florida

- Median household income: $53,267 (11.7% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 520,876 (6.8%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 409,038 (5.4%)
- Median earnings for workers: $30,462 (male: $43,305; female: $37,273)
- Unemployment rate: 6.3%
- Families with income below poverty level: 10.6%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 86.5%

Florida’s tourism-heavy economy contracted this year as its typical stream of visitors dried up, but economists see it recovering marginally next year—so long as the state has no COVID-19 shutdowns ahead. But it may not be until 2023 that its employment numbers creep back up, they say.

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#37. Missouri

- Median household income: $53,560 (11.2% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 158,836 (6.6%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 104,710 (4.4%)
- Median earnings for workers: $31,447 (male: $48,531; female: $37,610)
- Unemployment rate: 5.1%
- Families with income below poverty level: 9.8%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 90.3%

The economy of Missouri is comprised largely of manufacturing of aerospace and transportation equipment, metals, and chemicals, and the production of lead and cement. It is also home to more than 100,000 farms, and its major agricultural products are soybeans and corn. State officials say the economy has rebounded enough that some $133 million of the $448 million in cuts was restored to the state budget, adding funding for schools, and that more than 200,000 of 346,000 jobs that were lost in the pandemic have returned.

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#36. Indiana

- Median household income: $54,325 (9.9% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 161,937 (6.3%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 96,657 (3.8%)
- Median earnings for workers: $31,662 (male: $50,564; female: $37,369)
- Unemployment rate: 5.4%
- Families with income below poverty level: 9.9%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 90.9%

Among the areas of Indiana hardest hit by the economic impact of the coronavirus were those most dependent on tourism and casino revenues, as well as bars and restaurants. The state is a major producer of automobile and truck parts and steel, industries in which demand dropped in the pandemic, and of coal, an industry in long-term decline. More than a third of Indiana residents said at the end of October that they lived in households that were behind in rent or mortgage payments and faced eviction in the next two months.

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#35. Ohio

- Median household income: $54,533 (9.6% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 333,406 (7.2%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 208,645 (4.5%)
- Median earnings for workers: $32,104 (male: $51,835; female: $40,295)
- Unemployment rate: 5.8%
- Families with income below poverty level: 10.4%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 93.5%

Manufacturing is key to the economy of Ohio, especially in the area of transportation. The state assembles cars and trucks and also makes aircraft parts and fabricated metals. Those industries are highly dependent on the travel and airline industries, which have practically collapsed in the pandemic. One in 30 of all the aerospace jobs in the country is within 30 miles of downtown Cincinnati. GE Aviation, located in Cincinnati, laid off a quarter of its worldwide headcount when the pandemic struck.

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#34. Michigan

- Median household income: $54,938 (8.9% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 270,974 (6.9%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 187,024 (4.8%)
- Median earnings for workers: $31,284 (male: $52,930; female: $40,647)
- Unemployment rate: 6.5%
- Families with income below poverty level: 10.4%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 93.9%

Michigan's gross domestic product dropped at a rate of 41% in the second quarter, when automobile plants were closed down and demand crashed due to COVID-19. Economic reports indicate it will be at least three years before the state reaches the GDP level of late 2019. In Detroit, education and health care services are significant to the economy, and both sectors are likely to see more layoffs this year. Hospital finances have suffered due to a lack of elective medical procedures during the pandemic. Also, nearly a quarter of the city’s job losses this year are in the leisure and hospitality businesses, decimated by efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus.

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#33. Maine

- Median household income: $55,425 (8.1% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 33,789 (6.1%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 22,952 (4.1%)
- Median earnings for workers: $31,447 (male: $49,817; female: $40,199)
- Unemployment rate: 4.6%
- Families with income below poverty level: 7.9%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 91.7%

Maine’s economy has been affected by the decline in tourism, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. In particular, it has been affected by the border closing with Canada. However, Maine has seen a pickup in its housing market, as buyers’ interest in out-of-state and vacation homes has grown. Maine’s economy also got a boost in late summer with the end of a nine-week strike by workers at Bath Iron Works, which makes ships for the U.S. Navy, and an agreement by the European Union to eliminate tariffs on U.S. lobster.

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#32. Georgia

- Median household income: $55,679 (7.7% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 269,435 (7.3%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 215,171 (5.8%)
- Median earnings for workers: $31,857 (male: $48,474; female: $39,545)
- Unemployment rate: 6.4%
- Families with income below poverty level: 12.1%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 86.3%

In just two months—March and April—the state of Georgia lost as many jobs as it did during the 2008 recession. The economy in Atlanta may take more than two years to recover, according to economic predictions. The state’s manufacturing and technology sectors and its large companies with global business face weak global demand, particularly in Europe, for machinery and industrial goods. Less cargo has been arriving, especially from China, at the Port of Savannah, with a ripple effect on jobs in trucking and warehousing.

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#31. Arizona

- Median household income: $56,213 (6.8% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 170,434 (6.8%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 133,692 (5.3%)
- Median earnings for workers: $31,508 (male: $47,584; female: $39,967)
- Unemployment rate: 6.5%
- Families with income below poverty level: 11.6%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 89.1%

Economists say a bright spot for the Arizona economy is the housing market, with pandemic-related demand growing for affordable housing outside of cities, as well as consistently growing demand from seniors and from its net migration of incoming residents and businesses relocating from costlier areas. But the state’s key tourism industry is likely to remain in a severe decline as the pandemic continues to depress travel, especially by air.

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#30. South Dakota

- Median household income: $56,499 (6.3% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 19,651 (5.8%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 13,388 (3.9%)
- Median earnings for workers: $31,540 (male: $46,367; female: $35,706)
- Unemployment rate: 3.5%
- Families with income below poverty level: 8.5%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 90.6%

The biggest industry in South Dakota is agriculture, particularly the production of hay, sunflowers, rye, soybeans, corn, and wheat. Tourism also is a major business, and the state government spent $5 million in federal coronavirus relief funds on a 30-second advertising spot during the summer designed to draw visitors to the state.

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#29. Kansas

- Median household income: $57,422 (4.8% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 65,369 (5.8%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 54,627 (4.9%)
- Median earnings for workers: $32,032 (male: $50,452; female: $38,850)
- Unemployment rate: 4.4%
- Families with income below poverty level: 8.2%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 91.0%

The state of Kansas had enjoyed nine consecutive years of falling unemployment until the second quarter of 2020 brought the most quarterly job losses in its history. The economy is heavily agricultural, mostly in the production of cattle, which accounts for 60% of its farming business, and it is the nation’s top wheat producer. The harvest in Kansas was facing unusually dry conditions as of late October, a problem for wheat. Prices for commodities dropped earlier in the pandemic, but some overseas demand has picked up, and competing crops in Australia, Russia, and Ukraine also have issues this year.

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#28. Nevada

- Median household income: $57,598 (4.5% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 66,099 (6.1%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 50,659 (4.7%)
- Median earnings for workers: $32,281 (male: $46,722; female: $38,787)
- Unemployment rate: 6.9%
- Families with income below poverty level: 9.8%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 88.1%

Travel and tourism are huge business in Nevada, particularly in Las Vegas and Reno, so the pandemic wreaked plenty of damage. Economists say it could take from 18 months to three years to recover. Before the pandemic, one in four jobs statewide, and one in three jobs in Las Vegas, were in the leisure and hospitality industries. The number of visitors to Las Vegas dropped dramatically but is edging its way back, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Low-wage workers in the hotel and food service sectors were particularly hard hit, accounting for more than third of the state’s unemployment insurance claims.

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#27. Iowa

- Median household income: $58,580 (2.8% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 68,502 (5.5%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 53,210 (4.2%)
- Median earnings for workers: $32,782 (male: $50,923; female: $39,380)
- Unemployment rate: 3.9%
- Families with income below poverty level: 7.4%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 95.1%

The major drivers of Iowa’s economy are agriculture, particularly corn and soybean production, food processing, and the manufacturing of heavy machinery. Economists said the state was somewhat protected by not having a great reliance on tourism, but markets for commodities such as hogs took a hit. Corn and soybean prices hit lows in the spring but then rose, in part due to increased demand from China, which was grappling with its own drop in food stocks and turning increasingly to the international market.

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#26. Nebraska

- Median household income: $59,116 (2.0% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 40,512 (5.4%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 33,671 (4.5%)
- Median earnings for workers: $32,357 (male: $49,603; female: $38,526)
- Unemployment rate: 3.5%
- Families with income below poverty level: 7.7%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 91.6%

Nebraska’s unemployment rate, despite the impact of COVID-19, is among the nation’s lowest. But the economy is steeped in agriculture, which was battered by the pandemic. Before COVID-19, Nebraska already was facing a drop in land and livestock prices. As the hospitality industry and institutional food services—which account for more than half of all the food consumed—shut down in the pandemic, demand for agricultural goods plummeted. Apart from agriculture, Amazon in late October announced plans to open its first fulfillment center in Nebraska in 2021, creating 1,000 full-time jobs.

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#25. Wisconsin

- Median household income: $59,209 (1.8% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 115,992 (5.0%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 103,661 (4.4%)
- Median earnings for workers: $33,753 (male: $51,894; female: $40,873)
- Unemployment rate: 4.0%
- Families with income below poverty level: 7.7%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 94.2%

Wisconsin produces milk and cheese, peas, beans, and beets, and is a major paper producer. Its economy shrunk by a third between April and June of this year, a rate in line with other Great Lakes states. Before the pandemic, more than half of all butter and cheese was consumed in restaurants, schools, and food service institutions, which closed due to the virus and remain largely at limited capacity. One item that has supported demand for cheese, however, has been take-out and delivery pizza, while demand for butter has come from more at-home cooking and baking.

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#24. Oregon

- Median household income: $59,393 (1.5% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 95,003 (6.0%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 91,180 (5.7%)
- Median earnings for workers: $31,591 (male: $51,678; female: $41,729)
- Unemployment rate: 6.0%
- Families with income below poverty level: 9.2%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 92.7%

Oregon produces wheat, cattle, and lumber, and it is one of the top producers of green beans, salmon, and nickel. It also is the site of computer and electronic companies. Its economy has been hit both by COVID-19 and by wildfires, but is predicted to recover by mid-2023. Economists note that the pandemic-induced recession had a drastically unequal impact. Early in the pandemic, more than half the workers in restaurants and hotels, many of them low-paid, lost their jobs. But among jobs paying more than $40,000 a year, the unemployment rate has been about 5%.

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#23. Pennsylvania

- Median household income: $59,445 (1.4% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 315,702 (6.3%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 302,803 (6.0%)
- Median earnings for workers: $34,663 (male: $53,711; female: $42,190)
- Unemployment rate: 5.8%
- Families with income below poverty level: 8.7%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 93.8%

Pennsylvania’s economy fared better than some of its neighbors early in the pandemic because it is less dependent on tourism, and its pharmaceutical industry buoyed the economy. But the state’s reliance on energy production, steel manufacturing, and mining has been problematic, given the drop in global demand and market prices.

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#22. Texas

- Median household income: $59,570 (1.2% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 609,111 (6.4%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 657,562 (6.9%)
- Median earnings for workers: $32,246 (male: $50,031; female: $39,895)
- Unemployment rate: 5.4%
- Families with income below poverty level: 11.9%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 82.6%

Texas is a major producer of commodities that suffered severely from COVID-19 shutdowns. It produces a fifth of the nation’s beef cattle—a market that saw prices plummet from lack of restaurant and institutional demand. It is the leading producer of cotton, and prices tumbled for that commodity, also due to lack of demand, particularly for apparel. It also produces a fifth of the nation’s oil and nearly a third of its natural gas, and energy markets were stricken when industries and economies closed down. As of late October, more than 3.7 million people in Texas had filed for unemployment benefits since the start of the pandemic. Economists say weak oil prices and joblessness will put a drag on its economic recovery.

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#21. Vermont

- Median household income: $60,076 (0.4% less than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 12,826 (4.9%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 12,883 (5.0%)
- Median earnings for workers: $32,376 (male: $50,460; female: $42,170)
- Unemployment rate: 4.1%
- Families with income below poverty level: 7.1%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 95.9%

Vermont was successful in containing the coronavirus, compared with the rest of the country, but that success came with an economic price. Its critical tourism and hospitality industry sank when COVID-19 brought travel to a halt. Typically, tourism brings almost 13 million visitors and some $2.8 billion a year into Vermont; more than half of that is the ski and snowboarding businesses. Tourism supports some 34,000 direct and indirect jobs, about 10% of the workforce. This year in the hotel business alone, the state is estimated to have lost about $530 million, leading to a drop of $48 million in occupancy taxes. The slump in travel was noticeable during the fall foliage season and undoubtedly will affect ski season, economists say.

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#20. Wyoming

- Median household income: $62,268 (3.3% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 11,430 (5.0%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 9,515 (4.1%)
- Median earnings for workers: $32,957 (male: $55,053; female: $39,011)
- Unemployment rate: 4.5%
- Families with income below poverty level: 7.1%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 88.7%

Wyoming’s energy-heavy economy took heavy blows this year with a drop in demand and prices for oil, coal, and natural gas. In June, its oil and gas rig count—the number of active rigs that is used to measure the industry’s health—dropped to zero for the first time since Wyoming became a state. Drilling has resumed, but weakened energy companies have few resources for exploration and new development. In the second quarter of 2020, a fifth of Wyoming’s energy workers lost their jobs. Also, the closing of U.S. national parks like Yellowstone from March to May slammed Wyoming’s leisure and hospitality businesses. Economists say a full recovery may take several years, with too many unknowns, like worldwide prices and the progress of the virus, making it difficult to be precise.

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#19. Rhode Island

- Median household income: $63,296 (5.0% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 27,976 (6.8%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 27,466 (6.7%)
- Median earnings for workers: $36,079 (male: $55,237; female: $46,177)
- Unemployment rate: 6.1%
- Families with income below poverty level: 9.2%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 94.8%

Rhode Island's economy historically was based on manufacturing, but has diversified into finance and trade. Tourism also is important, as are the U.S. Navy’s facilities at Newport. The state lost one out in five jobs when COVID-19 broke out in March and April, and two-thirds of workers in food services and hospitality lost their jobs, the highest rate in New England. With some growth over the summer, the state recovered more than half its lost jobs by late September. But hospitality workers could see more job cuts as winter curtails outdoor dining, and businesses from casinos to colleges are still implementing cutbacks and layoffs. Some economists do not see an economic recovery for Rhode Island for three to five years.

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#18. North Dakota

- Median household income: $63,473 (5.3% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 18,064 (5.7%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 17,483 (5.6%)
- Median earnings for workers: $36,200 (male: $53,895; female: $40,033)
- Unemployment rate: 2.8%
- Families with income below poverty level: 6.4%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 92.6%

North Dakota’s economy has been grappling with a collapse in the price of oil, a key commodity in the state. Its extended stay hotels, typically filled with oilfield workers, are largely empty, and mineral rights owners saw their royalty payments from oil and gas leases plunge. The taxes on oil and gas production typically comprise more than half of the state’s overall tax revenues. The agricultural industry was hit by the nation’s trade war with China, which typically buys two-thirds of the state’s soybean crop, but has purchased far less amid the international tensions.

 

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#17. Illinois

- Median household income: $63,575 (5.4% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 314,802 (6.5%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 367,695 (7.6%)
- Median earnings for workers: $35,817 (male: $56,073; female: $43,977)
- Unemployment rate: 6.6%
- Families with income below poverty level: 9.4%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 92.7%

Illinois' economy was not in good shape ahead of the pandemic—it had just $1.2 million available in its so-called rainy-day fund to help mitigate declining revenues and help ailing businesses. Research in the summer found the state recovering better than the nation overall in terms of employee hours worked, consumer spending, jobless claims, and small business activity, but economists predict Illinois will have lost more than a half million jobs by March 2021. While industries like leisure and hospitality will take the biggest hit, a related drop in consumer spending will affect jobs throughout the economy. Illinois is a major manufacturing state, particularly in the production of construction equipment, machine tools, and farm machinery, and it also is an important hog and corn producer.

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#16. New York

- Median household income: $65,323 (8.3% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 492,408 (6.7%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 712,800 (9.7%)
- Median earnings for workers: $37,701 (male: $56,502; female: $49,513)
- Unemployment rate: 6.0%
- Families with income below poverty level: 10.9%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 93.5%

The economy of New York, an early epicenter of the coronavirus, may have been one of the hardest hit this year, due in part to the severe impacts of being a spring hotspot. New York’s economy is the nation’s third largest, behind California and Texas. The economy showed a rebound in the summer months, but that recovery slowed with the approach of fall, according to economists with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. While much of the economy has reopened, at least in limited capacity, economists say employment in New York is far lower than it was before the pandemic arrived, and economic improvement will be slow.

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#15. Delaware

- Median household income: $65,627 (8.8% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 19,901 (5.6%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 23,514 (6.6%)
- Median earnings for workers: $35,866 (male: $53,550; female: $45,469)
- Unemployment rate: 5.9%
- Families with income below poverty level: 8.0%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 94.0%

Delaware’s economy was struggling before the pandemic and fared badly when the coronavirus outbreak erupted. Economists say the state’s durable goods manufacturing is poised to recover, but travel and hospitality businesses, such as the tourism along the Eastern Shore beaches, will see an extended contraction. A global drop in demand for goods will have an impact on the state’s major port in Wilmington, and commercial real estate could be troubled as employees continue to work from home.

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#14. Utah

- Median household income: $68,374 (13.4% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 40,085 (4.2%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 54,814 (5.7%)
- Median earnings for workers: $30,967 (male: $53,583; female: $37,413)
- Unemployment rate: 3.9%
- Families with income below poverty level: 7.3%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 90.0%

Utah’s economy is a mix of agricultural livestock production, mining (especially of copper), steel making, aerospace research and production, and tourism. Economists said the economy’s diversity helped the state weather some of the worst of COVID-19’s financial impacts. Nevertheless, the state is expected to lose at least 73,000 nonagricultural jobs this year, and home sales and construction are expected to be slow. The state’s retail sector, particularly the sale of groceries, did well, however, as residents stocked up on supplies and food. Stockpiling and preparedness are directives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City.

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#13. Minnesota

- Median household income: $68,411 (13.5% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 95,813 (4.4%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 154,057 (7.1%)
- Median earnings for workers: $37,261 (male: $55,834; female: $45,709)
- Unemployment rate: 3.9%
- Families with income below poverty level: 6.3%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 95.3%

One strength of Minnesota’s economy is its labor force—the state has the highest rate of high school graduates among its residents of any state in the country. Job losses linked to the coronavirus pandemic were concentrated among low-wage workers in food service, hospitality, and tourism, but higher-earning workers who kept their jobs spent their income on consumer goods and home improvement, boosting retail, economists said. But sales tax receipts and income tax revenues remain down from 2019 levels, and economic activity is expected to slow as cold weather makes it too difficult to conduct business outdoors.

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#12. Colorado

- Median household income: $68,811 (14.1% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 107,807 (5.1%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 166,282 (7.9%)
- Median earnings for workers: $36,482 (male: $54,589; female: $45,170)
- Unemployment rate: 4.7%
- Families with income below poverty level: 7.2%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 91.9%

Colorado’s economy is diverse, from tourism, mining, and ranching to financial services, aerospace industries, and information technology. After taking a huge hit in March and April, the economy has recovered only a fraction of the jobs lost, and consumer spending and consumer confidence are weak. The state’s energy sector has seen little fresh investment. Its employment and income levels are predicted to stay below typical levels through 2022, with the possibility of further COVID-19-related shutdowns slowing recovery even further.

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#11. Washington

- Median household income: $70,116 (16.3% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 144,695 (5.2%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 234,221 (8.4%)
- Median earnings for workers: $37,960 (male: $60,940; female: $47,097)
- Unemployment rate: 5.3%
- Families with income below poverty level: 7.4%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 93.2%

Washington is a major manufacturer of jet aircraft and missiles and of computer software. It has extensive export and import trade with Asia, and it is a significant producer of hydroelectric power, thanks to the Columbia River. It also engages in food processing and the production of salmon, fruit, wine, and lumber. The slump in air travel has had a dampening effect on commercial aircraft manufacturing, and job cuts in the sector are expected to recur through the end of the year. Exports have fallen, as they did in 2019, mostly due to the low demand for transportation-related goods, and economists forecast personal income growth in the state will be subdued through 2025.

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#10. California

- Median household income: $71,228 (18.1% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 656,515 (5.1%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 1,421,052 (11.0%)
- Median earnings for workers: $35,050 (male: $54,058; female: $47,504)
- Unemployment rate: 6.7%
- Families with income below poverty level: 10.4%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 91.5%

California workers make up 7% of the nation’s labor force, but they accounted for a fifth of the nation’s jobless claims filed in late October, according to government statistics, as the state struggled under the economic impacts of the coronavirus. Economists say a recovery in jobs in late spring slowed, and as of late summer, the state had 1.73 million fewer jobs than it had in February prior to the lockdowns. At the end of 2022, the state is predicted to be short 630,000 jobs from its February 2020 high of 17.6 million. The $3 trillion economy is filled with an array of industries—technology, entertainment, farming, shipping, and tourism. But it had been grappling with issues pre-pandemic, such as lack of affordable housing. The median price for a single-family home is almost $600,000, twice as high as a median home price nationwide.

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#9. Virginia

- Median household income: $71,564 (18.7% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 165,334 (5.3%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 314,524 (10.1%)
- Median earnings for workers: $37,749 (male: $58,337; female: $46,278)
- Unemployment rate: 5.0%
- Families with income below poverty level: 7.5%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 90.8%

In Virginia, livestock has surpassed tobacco production as the state’s leading agricultural business. Virgina manufactures chemical products, such as pharmaceuticals and synthetic fibers, and builds ships. Other major businesses are computer technology, the federal government, and financial services. The government-related work protected the region somewhat when the public health crisis hit, and in fact federal government employment rose. The state’s economy has rebounded with residential and commercial construction and home sales. But the travel and tourism industries are still depressed, with job losses in leisure and hospitality down more than 20%.

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#8. New Hampshire

- Median household income: $74,057 (22.8% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 19,962 (3.8%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 44,540 (8.4%)
- Median earnings for workers: $38,025 (male: $59,602; female: $45,671)
- Unemployment rate: 4.0%
- Families with income below poverty level: 4.9%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 93.5%

New Hampshire's economy has struggled given its reliance on tourism, an industry that all but collapsed during the pandemic. Mitigating that damage, however, was the state’s high-tech sector, especially the businesses that handle government defense work. The closing of the U.S. border with Canada has affected economies in New England such as New Hampshire, but the housing market has benefited from out-of-state demand.

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#7. Connecticut

- Median household income: $76,106 (26.2% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 70,710 (5.2%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 162,410 (11.9%)
- Median earnings for workers: $41,332 (male: $65,556; female: $53,708)
- Unemployment rate: 6.5%
- Families with income below poverty level: 6.9%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 94.4%

Connecticut is less reliant on tourism than some of its neighbors, so it dodged at least one bullet in the pandemic, and its housing market and commerce have gotten a boost from people moving out of neighboring New York City. Defense contracts for helicopters and submarines production are helping support its manufacturing sector.

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#6. Alaska

- Median household income: $76,715 (27.2% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 10,230 (4.0%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 20,134 (7.9%)
- Median earnings for workers: $38,601 (male: $60,481; female: $48,900)
- Unemployment rate: 7.4%
- Families with income below poverty level: 7.5%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 85.6%

While Alaska’s fisheries and energy industries have struggled in the pandemic, its tourism businesses took severely damaging blows. In southeast Alaska, only a handful of cruise passengers visited over the summer, compared with a typical season of 1.4 million people passing through. A total of 2.2 million people visited Alaska in 2019, and a record year for tourism had been projected for 2020, according to the Federal Maritime Commission. The cruise industry supports terminal operations, hospitality, food services, transportation, and retail commerce, and cruise lines typically spend some $300 million each year to support Alaska’s economy.

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#5. Massachusetts

- Median household income: $77,378 (28.3% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 141,665 (5.4%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 311,680 (12.0%)
- Median earnings for workers: $41,476 (male: $66,330; female: $54,442)
- Unemployment rate: 5.4%
- Families with income below poverty level: 7.5%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 97.2%

Massachusetts’s pre-pandemic economy was strong, but it was an early hotspot, and its lockdown to control the coronavirus was strict. Hardest-hit businesses were in hospitality, retail, and entertainment. The state’s unemployment rate was the highest in the nation for months, rising above 16% in July. The pandemic also hit sectors of the economy that had previously been recession-proof, such as health care and education, and sent ripples through the tech and finance sectors as well. With federal aid uncertain, in late October the state government announced a $774 million economic recovery plan that included small business grants, workforce training funding partnerships, and other assistance programs.

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#4. Hawaii

- Median household income: $78,084 (29.5% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 24,195 (5.3%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 42,578 (9.3%)
- Median earnings for workers: $36,788 (male: $51,590; female: $42,130)
- Unemployment rate: 4.5%
- Families with income below poverty level: 6.7%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 95.9%

Very reliant on tourism, Hawaii’s economy has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the second quarter, about 31,000 people visited from out of state, a drop of nearly 99% from a year earlier. For the year 2020, the number of visitors is estimated to be off by 72% and visitor spending is estimated to be off by 68%. Economists say even by 2024 or 2045, visitor levels will be below pre-pandemic levels, as travel is dampened by concerns of infection and global joblessness that reduces consumer spending.

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#3. New Jersey

- Median household income: $79,363 (31.6% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 165,332 (5.1%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 416,737 (13.0%)
- Median earnings for workers: $41,812 (male: $65,051; female: $52,662)
- Unemployment rate: 6.1%
- Families with income below poverty level: 7.6%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 91.5%

New Jersey’s economy is based in industry, especially chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing, and, as the terminus of oil pipelines stretching from Texas and Oklahoma, it has oil refineries as well. It is a transportation corridor for the Northeast, and its Atlantic coast is a tourist destination. As of September, the state had recovered about 56% of the jobs lost earlier in the year due to COVID-19. But the impact of the pandemic is expected to dampen New Jersey’s economic growth until at least next spring and summer, state economists predict.

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#2. Maryland

- Median household income: $81,868 (35.8% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 103,376 (4.7%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 256,549 (11.7%)
- Median earnings for workers: $42,520 (male: $63,239; female: $53,663)
- Unemployment rate: 5.6%
- Families with income below poverty level: 6.4%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 93.5%

Maryland’s economy has been recovering better than most U.S. states, in part because it is insulated by federal government employment that did not have losses comparable to other sectors. But its hospitality and tourism sectors, which typically employ more than 150,000 people in the state, have suffered, with up to half the jobs lost to layoffs or furloughs.

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#1. Washington D.C.

- Median household income: $82,604 (37.0% more than U.S. median income)
- Households earning less than $10,000: 25,944 (9.2%)
- Households earning over $200,000: 47,342 (16.8%)
- Median earnings for workers: $53,377 (male: $77,498; female: $67,692)
- Unemployment rate: 7.4%
- Families with income below poverty level: 12.9%
- Civilian population with health insurance: 96.0%

Tourism in the District of Columbia has taken heavy blows in the pandemic. Summer hotel revenues were down 94% from a year earlier, and revenue-producing conventions and meetings dried up. Small businesses in the District, especially food services and arts and entertainment, have fared among the worst of all the nation's major cities, as office workers have stayed home. Two-thirds of the workers in the District, historically, are commuters. Officials and economists do not foresee a recovery until at least next fall.

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