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The 10 States With the Best Economies in America

Not all states have experienced the same kind of economic pain since the Great Recession began.
 
 
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The best local economy in the United States, by far, is the DC metropolitan area. Average incomes in the region top $150,000, more than triple the national average. The reason for Washington's affluence (or parts of Washington's affluence – the Capitol also has abundant poverty) is clear: while the rest of the economy is facing a crisis in demand as a result of high unemployment and stagnant wages in the private sector, the Capitol, in classic Keynesian style, is making up for it with plenty of  public spending, which has skyrocketed since 9/11 – defense and homeland security contractors, and other firms providing goods and services to the government are flush.

It's the same model that got us out of the Great Depression, but in this age of austerity, Washington isn't spreading enough public dollars around to help those of us living in the 50 states. Even so, not all states have seen the same kind of economic pain since the Great Recession began. Here are 10 that are doing pretty well, with relatively low unemployment, fewer homes in foreclosure, decent wages and a large share of their populations enjoying health insurance. It's not a comprehensive analysis of the thousands of economic metrics one might examine, but it does provide a handy snapshot of some of the states that are weathering the storm fairly well.

1. North Dakota

North Dakota's economy is led by agriculture – it provides much of the sugar beets, seed oils and grains that the United States produces. That brings in about $1 billion in federal ag subsidies each year. It also has energy – it's the second largest producer of lignite coal in the country, and also has about 3.6 billion barrels of recoverable oil – according to the most conservative estimates.

North Dakota also has its own bank – the only state-owned bank in the country. It helped the state avoid getting burned by shady mortgage-backed securities as many others were, and it invests long-term in North Dakota's growth.

    July unemployment rate: 3.3 percent (Nationwide: 9.1 percent)

    Per capita income (2010): $46,468 (Nationwide: $42,449)

    Jobs added in past year: 19,000

    Poverty rate (2008): 7.9 percent (Nationwide: 9.7 percent)

    Foreclosure rate (3rd quarter 2010): 0.95 percent (Nationwide: 4.29 percent)

    Share of the population uninsured (2008-2009): 11 percent (Nationwide: 17 percent)

    State budget gap (2010): Nada

2. Nebraska

Best known for its agricultural sector, Nebraska has a pretty diverse economy, with manufacturing, telecommunications and insurance all contributing to its relatively good outlook. It has the second lowest unemployment rate in the country, and is a cheap place to live.

    July unemployment rate: 4.1 percent

    Per capita income (2010): $43,625

    Jobs added in past year: 13,400

    Poverty rate (2008): 6.8 percent

    Foreclosure rate (3rd quarter 2010): 1.61 percent

    Share of the population uninsured (2008-2009): 12 percent

    State budget gap (2010): $305 million

3. Alaska

Obviously, energy dominates the Alaskan economy, with seafood exports coming in second followed by tourism. The government is a major employer in the state, and military bases are an important part of the economies of Anchorage and Fairbanks. Alaska, home of rugged individualists who hate government, also receives massive amounts of federal subsidies. It has a lot of people without health insurance, and an unemployment rate that, while well below the national average is also the highest on this list, but incomes are high and it's in pretty good shape otherwise.

    July unemployment rate: 7.7 percent

    Per capita income (2010): $63,424

 
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