Happiness Index: Florida Dead Last!

How Happy Is Your State?

The newest installment of the Happiness Index has arrived and residents of the Midwest will be happy to learn that their strangle-hold on the top spots remains intact. There have been some big moves however. Vermont made a big leap, and New Jersey and Lousiana took serious tumbles. There’s also been some movement at the bottom and residents of the Sunshine State may be unhappy to learn that, well, they’re the least happy state in the nation, when it comes to money matters. Here’s how the index works: The Happiness Index, which analyzes household income, non-mortgage debt, employment and foreclosures, is a fresh take on the old and tired Misery Index, made popular in the 1970s. The Misery Index takes into account unemployment and inflation rates and seeks to identify the most financially miserable places to live. Click through to see where your state ranks. Join MainStreet on Facebook! (will open in new window)


51. Florida

Previous Rank: 50 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 36.81% Unemployment Rate: 11% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 56 Happiness Index Value: 136 With the third highest foreclosure rate in the country, 11% unemployment and a high non-mortgage debt rate, it's not terribly surprising that Florida has dropped to the bottom of the Happiness Index. The Sunshine State is facing an extremely depressed housing market. According to an Orlando Sentinel article, authorities have devoted significant resources to combatting fraudulent mortgages in the troubled state. U.S. Attorney Brian Albritton told the Sentinel that Florida is "ground-zero for mortgage fraud." Photo Credit: Karen Horton


50. Nevada

Previous Rank: 49 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 33.59% Unemployment Rate: 13.3% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 23 Happiness Index Value: 135 With one foreclosure per 23 households (the lowest rate in the country), it's no wonder that Nevada is unhappy. Good thing the highly-anticipated City Center casino/resort/meta-city is opening next month. The largest privately-funded construction project in the U.S., City Center will hopefully draw some more tourists to the Vegas strip and revive the local economy. Photo Credit: matze_ott


49. California

Previous Rank: 51 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 35.12% Unemployment Rate: 12.2% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 53 Happiness Index Value: 134 California has its own share of problems outside of the national housing and financial issues. Budgetary issues continue to plague the Golden State. We know Terminator isn't a feel-good movie, but shouldn't California's movie-star governor cheer up the state a little bit? Maybe Schwarzenegger should be more Kindergarten Cop than Commando. Photo Credit: tensaibuta Join MainStreet on Facebook! (will open in new window)


48. Arizona

Previous Rank: 47 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 39.85% Unemployment Rate: 9.1% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 53 Happiness Index Value: 129 At almost 40%, Arizona's non-mortgage debt to income stat is the worst in the country. On the upside, Arizonans are projected to lose much fewer jobs next year. The Arizona Department of Commerce projects that job losses in 2010 will slide seven-tenths of 1%, compared with a 6.8% drop so far in 2009, a year that has seen jobs disappear at an average of 500 per day, according to the Arizona Republic. Photo Credit: Ken Lund


47. Oregon

Previous Rank: 48 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 34.99% Unemployment Rate: 11.5% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 156 Happiness Index Value: 122 Even though Oregon's college football fans are smiling at their victory over USC last week, the economy is nothing to cheer about. Coming in at #47, Oregonians are suffering from an especially high unemployment rate of 11.5%. Federal stimulus money may be ameliorating this issue however, with new indications that almost 10,000 Oregon jobs were created or saved by the funds. Photo Credit: bandita


46. Idaho

Previous Rank: 44 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 39.17% Unemployment Rate: 8.8% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 97 Happiness Index Value: 121 Idaho's economy has taken a hit in the Great Recession, mostly in the local job market, and the local government is footing the bill. Local station KTVB reported: "Through early October this year, Idaho paid out nearly $504 million in regular, extended and supplemental unemployment insurance benefits to people who are out of work. That is an all-time record payout for any year in the state's history and more than double all of 2008’s total record payout of $247 million." Photo Credit: amanderson2 Join MainStreet on Facebook! (will open in new window)


45. Michigan

Previous Rank: 43 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 30.52% Unemployment Rate: 15.3% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 122 Happiness Index Value: 112 Michigan, Michigan, Michigan. What are we going to do with you? The demise of the American auto industry has struck the work force of Michigan hard. The Detroit News recently reported that despite promises by local employers to save 25,000 Detroit jobs in exchange for tax breaks, 7,500 jobs were lost. Photo Credit: mrt77


44. Rhode Island

Previous Rank: 45 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 35.17% Unemployment Rate: 13% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 290 Happiness Index Value: 112 In the next Happiness Index, this state may become even more depressed about its economic state than it already is. The Associated Press reports, "The unemployment rate in Rhode Island will continue climbing and peak at 13.8% next year even as layoffs taper off, an economist told state budget officials." Less than 500,000 residents were employed in September. Yikes. Photo Credit: Patricia Drury


43. Ohio

Previous Rank: 46 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 33.32% Unemployment Rate: 10.1% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 171 Happiness Index Value: 110 We're sure a Buckeye wouldn't wish homelessness on a Michigan Wolverine (just bittersweet tears of defeat), but the battleground state's residents sure are happy that their foreclosure filings are beginning to drop off, even as Michigan's rise. Does this signal a full recovery for the state? It's too soon to tell, but things may be looking up. Photo Credit: DRB62


42. Washington

Previous Rank: 42 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 35.78% Unemployment Rate: 9.3% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 264 Happiness Index Value: 100 Washington made no movement in the rankings since our last Happiness Index, holding steady at #42. Washington voters chose not to limit government spending in Tuesday's election, signaling to politicians that the Great Recession is still hitting home and residents still want the government's help. Photo Credit: fddi1


41. Tennessee

Previous Rank: 41 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 32.7% Unemployment Rate: 10.5% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 250 Happiness Index Value: 98 Tennessee's own governor isn't too hopeful about the state's economic woes. The Tennessean recently reported: "Gov. Phil Bredesen is asking state departments to cut their budgets by as much as 9 percent next year, a move that probably will trigger another round of layoffs and curb some services." "Hopefully, the economy is coming back. … But we're a long way under water," Bredesen told the news organization. Photo Credit: Exothermic


40. Illinois

Previous Rank: 38 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 30.25% Unemployment Rate: 10.5% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 141 Happiness Index Value: 96 The President’s adopted home state dropped two spots in the Happiness Index with both unemployment and foreclosures well above the national average. A recent stat reported by Pantagraph.com indicates just how far the pain is beginning to spread. “In yet another sign of tough economic times, more Illinoisans are losing their business licenses for defaulting on their student loans. According to a review of state records, the number of pharmacists, cosmetologists and other licensed professionals in the state who have been penalized for not paying their student loans this year is higher than in the previous two years.” Photo Credit: laffy4k


39. Georgia

Previous Rank: 39 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 29.97% Unemployment Rate: 10.1% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 119 Happiness Index Value: 93 Georgia has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country, though the state remains stuck in the 39th spot in the Happiness Index. According to recent reports, there are mixed signals as to whether the economy is poised to rebound or slide. According to an article in the Florida Times Union, Georgia’s “factory managers are reporting more bullish signs in a survey released this week, but lenders say activity remains sluggish.” Photo Credit: totalAldo


38. South Carolina

Previous Rank: 33 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 30.04% Unemployment Rate: 11.6% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 268 Happiness Index Value: 87 South Carolina dropped five spots with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. There is, however, real hope for a big influx of new, well-paying jobs in the very near future. Boeing recently announced that it would be locating manufacturing plants for its 787 Dreamliner in North Charleston. The state has offered various incentives to Boeing in order to attract them, but the aerospace company, for its part, is required to create a minimum of 3,800 jobs and invest $750 million in the region within seven years according to an article in IslandPacket.com. Photo Credit: Shoshanah


37. North Carolina

Previous Rank: 36 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 32.98% Unemployment Rate: 10.8% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 420 Happiness Index Value: 87 North Carolina dropped just one place in the Happiness Index, though its unemployment is more than 10%. What’s certainly not helping things is the fact that North Carolina is hugely invested in hog farming, an industry that has been hit hard by the swine flu, or H1N1 virus, as hog farmers prefer it be called. WRAL.com spoke to one hog farmer about the current situation. “’We simply were the victims of a bad name,’ said Neil Strother, owner of Strother Swine Farms in Wilson County. Strother said the H1N1 virus has scared many people away from pork products. People somehow became confused into thinking they could catch the virus from pork.”  An estimated “$661 million of equity [was] lost in North Carolina over the past 21 months.” Photo Credit: Synthetic Dreamer


36. Indiana

Previous Rank: 40 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 31.07% Unemployment Rate: 9.6% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 230 Happiness Index Value: 87 Indiana jumped a modest four spots in the Happiness Index as its unemployment rate hovers just below the national average. One state business group believes that the key to a more financially secure future for residents of the state lies in renewable energy. Indiana Businesses for a Clean Energy Economy released a new economic analysis that advocates a strong federal policy, which if enacted, “could create up to 45,000 jobs in the Hoosier state, while increasing incomes by $1,200 and growing the state economy by $2.5 billon.” Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley


35. District of Columbia

Previous Rank: 28 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 29.83% Unemployment Rate: 11.4% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 240 Happiness Index Value: 86 The capital city dropped seven spots in the latest installment, mainly due to unemployment of more than 11%. Recently, the city was forced to lay off nearly 400 school employees, including 266 teacher and 122 support staff. The Washington Post covered a public meeting about the firings that lasted an incredible 18 hours. This is from the Post article:  “By the time [D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray] adjourned at 4:08 a.m. Saturday, after 18 hours of comment from parents, students, community activists, labor leaders and more than 40 teachers -- nearly all of it scathingly critical of the firings -- it was generally agreed that some sort of record had been set. Whether it was in the realm of democracy or lunacy depended on who you asked.” Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon


34. Alabama

Previous Rank: 31 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 31.89% Unemployment Rate: 10.7% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 359 Happiness Index Value: 85 As its unemployment rate approaches 11%, Alabama dropped three spots on the Happiness Index. Experts suggest that things could get even worse before they get better… but they say they will get better. According to an article in the Birmingham News, “Alabama's economy is due for a turnaround in the last three months of the year but job losses will continue to mount, according to experts at the University of Alabama's Center for Business and Economic Research. They believe the state's economy will contract by about 3 percent before staging an expansion next year that could approach 2 percent. But they say job losses will continue into 2010, suggesting more pain ahead.” Photo Credit: Southernpixel


33. Maine

Previous Rank: 35 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 40.19% Unemployment Rate: 8.5% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 662 Happiness Index Value: 85 Maine jumped two spots in the Happiness Index, though it enjoys the dubious distinction of having the worst non-mortgage debt rate in the country. University of Southern Maine Economist Charlie Colgan said that the worst could be over. According to an article on the Web site of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, “Colgan attempted to raise the spirits of lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee by telling them that the good news in Maine's economy is that the worst of the recession is probably over. ‘The bad news is that the worst was really bad.’” Photo Credit: fortes


32. Arkansas

Previous Rank: 34 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 35.91% Unemployment Rate: 7.1% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 249 Happiness Index Value: 85 Though Arkansas is challenged by a very high non-mortgage debt and foreclosure rate, its unemployment rate has stabilized, at least for now. “Even though Arkansas’ unemployment rate has stabilized, based on our surveys over the past several months, I expect the state’s jobless rate to increase by another 0.2 percent by the end of the year,” said Ernie Goss, director of Creighton University’s Economic Forecasting Group. Photo Credit: StuSeeger


31. Colorado

Previous Rank: 37 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 32.41% Unemployment Rate: 7% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 131 Happiness Index Value: 82 Colorado jumped  six spots in the Index: Its unemployment rate is retreating, nevertheless it has one of the worst foreclosure rates in the country. The governor is predictably upbeat about the state’s prospects. “We’re transforming government to keep pace with the rapid changes each Colorado business and family must face today, while making it tighter, more entrepreneurial, and more nimble to meet the challenges of these new economic times,” wrote Governor Bill Ritter in an open letter. “We’re offering tax incentives to businesses that create jobs in Colorado, providing access to capital, making revolutionary changes to improve our education system, and strengthening our public universities. That’s why Forbes.com and CNBC both rank Colorado among the top five states in which to do business. …And it’s why many experts believe our diverse economy will help Colorado emerge from the national recession sooner and stronger than other states.” Photo Credit: gregor_y Join MainStreet on Facebook! (will open in new window)


30. New Jersey

Previous Rank: 19 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 29.38% Unemployment Rate: 9.8% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 193 Happiness Index Value: 81 Jersey dropped 11 spots in the Happiness Index, with both foreclosure and unemployment rates in the bottom third of the states. Some, in fact, say that Democrat John Corzine’s recent loss of the governorship to Republican Chris Christie is due to the state’s economic situation. “Ironically,” writes columnist Bruce Lowry of The Record. “Corzine, the former Wall Street whiz, probably understands the nuts and bolts of the economy better than any politician in the state. He understood, also, that in places like Paterson and Newark, it's not just a recession, but a true ‘depression.’” Photo Credit: psflannery


29. Pennsylvania

Previous Rank: 30 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 35.14% Unemployment Rate: 8.8% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 387 Happiness Index Value: 81 Singl- digit unemployment and relatively average non-mortgage debt don’t exactly mean Pennsylvania is ecstatic, but the state could do a lot worse. But still, there is job-related anxiety, particularly among manufacturing sector workers. Wheatland Tube Co., for example, reportedly has “900 workers in the Western Pennsylvania area, who have been subject to rolling layoffs because of the slow economy.” Most recently, 40 workers were laid off. Photo Credit: Tony the Misfit


28. New Mexico

Previous Rank: 20 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 37.44% Unemployment Rate: 7.7% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 395 Happiness Index Value: 81 Relatively high non-mortgage debt exists in New Mexico, but the unemployment rate is still in the single digits. The tech industry reportedly remains “vital” to the state’s economy, and “New Mexico has the 4th highest concentration of tech workers in the country - 81 tech workers for every 1,000 private sector workers. The average annual tech industry wage in the state, $71,100, is 102 percent more than the state's average private sector wage.” So, if you’re a scientist or high-tech whiz, now may be the time to ask for a job building UFOs, mutants, laser weapons and other super secret things at New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Lab. Photo Credit: a4gpa


27. Kentucky

Previous Rank: 27 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 32.19% Unemployment Rate: 10.9% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 581 Happiness Index Value: 79 The state’s foreclosure rate isn’t the highest, but its unemployment rate is in the double digits. Luckily, KYPost.com recently reported that unemployment “edged down a bit to 10.9 percent compared with the 11.2 percent jobless rate in August.” Kentucky’s construction sector, for the first time since April 2009, added 400 jobs — encouraging news. Photo Credit: jeremiah.andrick Join MainStreet on Facebook! (will open in new window)


26. Massachusetts

Previous Rank: 13 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 29.97% Unemployment Rate: 9.3% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 215 Happiness Index Value: 79 Although non-mortgage debts are OK, unemployment is relatively high and the foreclosure rate is certainly not among the lowest in the union. In September, 9,200 jobs were lost, with the largest declines being in the hospitality and leisure industries. Overall, Massachusetts is experiencing its highest unemployment rate in more than 30 years. On a more positive note, it was reported that the state’s information sector added 500 jobs—its fourth-consecutive month of increased employment in that area. Photo Credit: Paul Keleher


25. Connecticut

Previous Rank: 32 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 31.32% Unemployment Rate: 8.4% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 281 Happiness Index Value: 74 Manageable non-mortgage debts and a not particularly startling unemployment rate means relative happiness for Connecticut. The governor, M. Jodi Rell, has reportedly said “It is not as bad as we thought it would be” in regard to the state’s economy, and also stated that the film industry is a strong source of job growth for Connecticut. She assured state business leaders that they will “get through” the downturn eventually and has reportedly “tightened the state’s purse strings by implementing a hiring freeze, travel ban and most recently a moratorium on purchasing office supplies.” Photo Credit: cliff1066


24. Utah

Previous Rank: 26 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 31.32% Unemployment Rate: 6.2% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 97 Happiness Index Value: 74 Relatively low unemployment and non-mortgage debt spells happy times for Utah, but the state’s high foreclosure rate is troubling. Still, Utah’s large Mormon population are “politically conservative and see free markets as a better solution” than government involvement, according to Utah CEO Magazine. Mormon entrepreneurs are likely to keep the state’s work force engaged, rather than in the unemployment line until stimulus funds trickle down. Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography


23. West Virginia

Previous Rank: 18 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 35.87% Unemployment Rate: 8.9% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 1,549 Happiness Index Value: 73 West Virginia took a hit since our last Happiness Index, dropping five spots. In response to recent reports of economic recovery, Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow reportedly said, "Some (national) folks have declared us out of the recession, but on the state revenue front things are still pretty bleak at the present time." Muchow went on to say that revenue could fall $100 million short of what had been budgeted. Photo Credit: bradwicklund


22. New Hampshire

Previous Rank: 23 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 32.5% Unemployment Rate: 7.2% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 306 Happiness Index Value: 68 Decent non-mortgage debt, single-digit unemployment and a high — but not the highest by any means — foreclosure rate all make for a mixed bag in New Hampshire. Plus, it was recently reported by The Keene Sentinel that “statewide, 51,160 people were looking for work in September. That is 510 fewer than in August.” Not great news, but it’s a start in the right direction. Photo Credit: Leventhal Map Center


21. Delaware

Previous Rank: 29 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 33.02% Unemployment Rate: 8.3% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 500 Happiness Index Value: 66 This state, home to Joe Biden and people who don’t like to pay sales taxes (Delaware has none), has single-digit unemployment and a tolerable non-mortgage debt as percentage of annual income. There is still a lot of anxiety surrounding the real estate market, though. The state government is working hard to keep people in their homes. It was reported that “The Delaware Attorney General, a state legislator and judge created a foreclosure mediation program to help homeowners at risk of foreclosure. Home sales have been given a boost in Wilmington by the federal government's first time home buyers tax credit. More than half of the state's residents reside in Wilmington.” Photo Credit: World Economic Forum


20. Minnesota

Previous Rank: 25 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 30.09% Unemployment Rate: 7.3% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 217 Happiness Index Value: 65 Minnesota is looking a bit happier now on the Happiness Index, thanks in part to the creation of about 12,000 jobs in the state because of federal stimulus money, according to MinnPost.com. Favorable tax credits and interest rates have encouraged home buyers to sign almost 5,000 purchase agreements in September alone, the site reports. Additionally, state tax revenue saw a boost thanks in part to the federal government’s Cash for Clunkers program. Photo Credit: adamsfelt


19. Louisiana

Previous Rank: 6 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 32.99% Unemployment Rate: 7.4% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 466 Happiness Index Value: 63 Louisiana has dropped 13 spots on the Happiness Index as families and small businesses continue to worry about access to affordable health care coverage, according to Kaiser Health News. The state also heavily relies on tourism, and with Americans cutting their travel budgets and increasingly opting for staycations, New Orleans could particularly be taking a toll. Petroleum refining and chemical production also play a large role in Louisiana’s health, and oil spills and weakness in oil production have seeped into and dampened its economy in recent months. Photo Credit: ~MVI~


18. Missouri

Previous Rank: 16 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 29.08% Unemployment Rate: 9.5% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 335 Happiness Index Value: 62 Even though its unemployment rate has started to steady, according to the Kansas City Business Journal, Missouri has gotten a little less happy in recent months as its economy has continued on a decline. Income tax collections and sales tax revenue have declined, according to the Kansas City Star. Missouri is also a hub for auto and aerospace manufacturers, sectors which have continued to see a decline as drivers wait longer to buy new cars and airlines struggle. Anheuser-Busch InBev, one of the largest employers in the state according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, has fared well, possibly tempering any negative effects on the state’s economy. Photo Credit: happysteve


17. New York

Previous Rank: 14 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 31.25% Unemployment Rate: 8.9% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 521 Happiness Index Value: 62 New York has weathered a budget crisis and seen its unemployment rate reach a 16-year high. Hotel and real estate prices in Manhattan have dropped significantly this year and the unemployment rate peaked near 10%, though it’s not dropped below 9%. The financial sector in New York has been hit the hardest, but other sectors like health and education are actually growing. Some hope exists that the economy upstate will start to improve with investments in infrastructure like the railroad industry. Until then, all New Yorkers can at least take some satisfaction in the Yankees' World Series win. Unfortunately, we can’t account for that happiness statistically. Photo Credit: joiseyshowaa


16. Alaska

Previous Rank: 24 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 31.15% Unemployment Rate: 8.4% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 369 Happiness Index Value: 62 Alaska is doing pretty well, with or without Sarah Palin at the helm. Though their foreclosures were up this year, they were still among the lowest in the nation. Alaska is one of only two states expected to see employment gains this year (the other is North Dakota). On top of this, Alaska had the third most jobs created from the stimulus package. Of course, some parts of Alaska are feeling the downturn more than others. “The pain is hardest in the rural, remote communities where energy and food costs are way above the national average because of transportation costs,” according to CNN. Photo Credit: AlaskaDude


15. Texas

Previous Rank: 12 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 30.69% Unemployment Rate: 8.2% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 316 Happiness Index Value: 61 Texas is a tough state with a tough economy. Its unemployment rate is a comparatively low 8.2%, but their jobless rate is climbing faster than many other states. Still, there are plenty of bright spots for the Lone Star state, as creative professions (performing arts, digital media) and the life sciences help create new jobs and bring in significant revenue for the state. Texas was always expected to be one of the first to rise out of the recession and according to one recent report, it is now positioned for a smooth recovery in 2010. The state’s revenue growth has exceeded the national average and the stimulus funds allotted were just enough to make up for the state’s budget shortfall this year. Photo Credit: cjc4454


14. Wyoming

Previous Rank: 11 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 36.94% Unemployment Rate: 6.8% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 1,117 Happiness Index Value: 60 Wyoming has fared better than most states until now, but it may have a rough year ahead. Its unemployment rate is just 6.8%, which puts it in the top 10 best states for employment in the country, but experts expect Wyoming will continue bleeding jobs in the months to come. In fact, Wyoming was a late comer to the recession, as its economy didn’t really begin to tumble until the first quarter of 2009, so it may be one of the later states to come out of it. “Our unemployment rate increase in the last couple of months was the fastest in the nation,” said Wenlin Liu, senior economist at the Wyoming Economic Analysis Division. “We’ll probably not have much of a recovery until 2012, maybe 2011.” Photo Credit: whatleydude


13. Mississippi

Previous Rank: 15 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 30.33% Unemployment Rate: 9.2% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 565 Happiness Index Value: 58 Mississippi was recently listed as one of 11 states officially recovering from the recession. That’s a great sign for a state that started off the year by trying to reject federal stimulus funds (though the state legislature eventually caved). Mississippi’s unemployment rate hovered around the 10% mark all year, but now it seems ready to push below 9% and beyond. Photo Credit: Ken Lund


12. Wisconsin

Previous Rank: 21 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 27.17% Unemployment Rate: 8.3% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 229 Happiness Index Value: 58 Wisconsin has had a mixed year. It’s suffered big job losses in its manufacturing and transportation sectors, and seen housing prices fall by more than 10% in the third quarter of 2009. Ultimately though, the state has much to be happy about. Wisconsin ranks just outside the top 10 states in energy efficiency nationwide, and more than 10,000 full time jobs were saved or created this year thanks to the stimulus. Most importantly, there is only good news in the future, with economists predicting that the state will exceed or at least match national growth in the coming years, thanks largely to new tax breaks and incentives initiated this year. Photo Credit: Chefranden


11. Maryland

Previous Rank: 8 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 27.13% Unemployment Rate: 7.2% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 157 Happiness Index Value: 57 Maryland dropped three spots and is now out of the top 10, despite having the second lowest non-mortgage debt rate in the country. That said, some are saying that the state’s economy is on an upward swing. As reported in the Washington Business Journal, “Business activity in Maryland increased in October and sales rose for the first time in almost two years, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. The Richmond Fed’s survey of Maryland businesses saw an increase in its general business conditions index, with sales in October rising for the first time since November 2007, just before the onset of the recession.” Photo Credit: Scaramouche!


10. Vermont

Previous Rank: 22 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 37.96% Unemployment Rate: 6.7% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 5,023 Happiness Index Value: 56 Vermont jumped 12 spots to edge into the top 10, with relatively low unemployment and the lowest foreclosure rate in the country driving the surge. That said, the Market Oracle notes that, “Vermont has seen foreclosure rates jump 170% from the same quarter a year ago.” Not to mention they’ve got among the highest non-mortgage debt rates in the country. Photo Credit: Bruce Tuten


9. Virginia

Previous Rank: 17 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 29.66% Unemployment Rate: 6.7% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 196 Happiness Index Value: 54 Virginia jumped eight spots to make it into the top 10 despite a high foreclosure rate, but state budget worries have many still concerned, particularly educators. Isaac Wood, assistant communications director at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics spoke to The Cavalier Daily, the school’s newspaper. “'Politicians and political observers agree that Virginia has been in a budgetary mess,’ he said.  Wood added, though, that he believes the commonwealth is most likely in a better position financially than some states that have been hit even harder by the recession, like California… ‘The equation is soberingly simple,’ he said, noting that the commonwealth must either cut its spending or raise taxes to avoid even greater shortfalls.” Photo Credit: La Citta Vita


8. Hawaii

Previous Rank: 7 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 24.12% Unemployment Rate: 7.2% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 185 Happiness Index Value: 53 Due to comparably low unemployment and non-mortgage debt rates, Hawaii’s financial happiness remains high despite significant challenges, particularly those in the tourism industry. “Hotel-room demand in the state has declined sharply at a time when the number of expensively renovated rooms is rising,” according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. “Occupancy at Hawaii's resorts dropped to 66.9% in the first eight months of this year, the lowest level since the same period in 1993 and down from this decade's high of 80.7% in 2005, according to Smith Travel Research.” Photo Credit: PlassPhoto


7. South Dakota

Previous Rank: 5 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 36.72% Unemployment Rate: 4.8% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 981 Happiness Index Value: 52 South Dakota dropped a couple spots but it’s still in the top 10, which is good news. Challenges remain, however. According to Prairie Business Magazine, Governor Mike Rounds “expects the stimulus money to run out this year, leaving next year’s projected expenses about $170 million higher than anticipated revenues …. How will the state fill its budget hole? … ‘We do not have a solution put together yet,’ Rounds said.” Photo Credit: Mykl Roventine


6. North Dakota

Previous Rank: 9 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 38.3% Unemployment Rate: 4.2% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 2,724 Happiness Index Value: 51 North Dakota’s financial happiness jumped a few spots, and that may have something to do with the state’s burgeoning oil business. The Associated Press reported, “The number of people reporting income of $1 million or more increased by 18.5 percent last year, according to the state Tax Department ... Tax Department analyst Kathy Strombeck said the jump in the number of North Dakotans with income of more than $1 million is largely due to oil company payments to mineral owners.” Photo Credit: afiler


5. Montana

Previous Rank: 10 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 35.81% Unemployment Rate: 6.7% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 1,486 Happiness Index Value: 50 Montana’s economy jumped five spots this month into the top five. David Ewer, the state budget director, spoke to the Helena Independent Record: “The Montana economy never hit the housing bubble highs like California did and didn't have as far to fall. Montana also doesn't have a concentration of financial services jobs, another sector of the economy to be blasted in this recession. Because Montana didn't have as much activity in those sectors of the economy, their collapse hasn't hurt tax revenues as much.” Photo Credit: gene1138


4. Oklahoma

Previous Rank: 4 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 30.96% Unemployment Rate: 6.7% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 323 Happiness Index Value: 48 Oklahoma remains in the fourth spot, but some, like state Rep. Lee Denney, worry that there may be problems looming. This passage is from The Stillwater News Press: “Oklahoma’s economy has been somewhat isolated from the national recession, he said, but the worst is yet to come. Low natural gas prices and cuts in drilling and production caused the slump in state revenue. The state’s revenue shortage will continue until natural gas prices go up, she said.” Photo Credit: freewine


3. Kansas

Previous Rank: 3 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 28.55% Unemployment Rate: 6.9% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 358 Happiness Index Value: 36 Kansas, still at slot three on the Happiness Index, could get an economic boost from the recent announcement that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway plans to buy Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad for $34 billion. According to KansasCity.com, “Kansas City’s economy could feel a direct boost from the deal if it helps prod the railroad’s plans to build a major rail-truck freight hub near Gardner and Edgerton, Kan.” Photo Credit: gregor_y


2. Iowa

Previous Rank: 2 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 28.19% Unemployment Rate: 6.7% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 681 Happiness Index Value: 17 Iowa maintains its position as the second most fiscally happy state in the nation and they could be poised to take the top spot. The Des Moines Register reports, “Two areas of the economy that led Iowa out of the 2001 recession are starting to show signs of strength, a new report showed Monday. Manufacturing, an industry hard hit in the lingering recession, posted improvement in September’s Iowa Leading Indicators Index … Residential building permits also climbed in September over August.” Photo Credit: Hammer51012


1. Nebraska

Previous Rank: 1 Non-Mortgage Debt as % of Annual Income: 28.64% Unemployment Rate: 4.9% Foreclosure Rate (1 foreclosure per # of households): 1,062 Happiness Index Value: 15 Nebraska remains in the top spot of the Happiness Index thanks to its relatively low numbers across the board. Nebraska’s Governor Dave Heineman was recently quoted as saying, "One of the reasons we're in better shape than most states is we don't spend money we don't have…That sounds like a boring way of operating, but it is really paying dividends right now." Check out a table that lists all the states and statistics we use in the Happiness Index. Photo Credit: Kables Join MainStreet on Facebook! (will open in new window)


null


Show Comments

Back to Top