North Carolina Takes 10th Place on Best & Worst State Economies List

by Amanda Harrison, on 6/5/19 10:10 AM

North Carolina State Economy RankingIn a recent economic study by WalletHub, North Carolina soared into the top ten. WalletHub investigated three key categories in order to come up with their list: economic health, innovation potential, and economic activity. Comparing all 50 states (and Washington, D.C.), North Carolina came in tenth place overall.

Source: WalletHub

You can take a look at all of the rankings and breakdowns here.

How did NC fare in each specific category?

  • 11th for economic health
  • 12th for innovation potential
  • 15th for economic activity

Other categories covered by the study and NC’s rank:

  • 9th for percentage of jobs in high-tech industries
  • 9th for government surplus/deficit per capita
  • 12th for GDP growth
  • 18th for startup activity

These are all respectable rankings, but what can developers do to climb higher on the list? WalletHub asked the experts and here are some of their replies.

What can states do to prevent “brain drain” and develop, attract and retain highly skilled workers?


“First, it does require jobs in the area. A few states such as Vermont and Oklahoma have programs to attract teleworkers (those with jobs out of state) but these programs are rare. You need employers. Second, it really does require a place that people want to live. This can mean the coasts, but many coastal cities have become so expensive that there are a number of affordable cities that attract the best and brightest. The research triangle in North Carolina and Austin, TX (where I live) are good examples.

[...] one huge advantage is a university or college in the area. This attracts human capital, and many of these graduates may choose to stay. But it also generates a lot of the amenities that makes a place desirable to live.”

- Nathan Jensen Ph.D. – Professor in the Department of Government, McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas - Austin

attractionWhat makes a state attractive to potential entrepreneurs?


“Entrepreneurs by definition are idiosyncratic and independent. Sensible investment incentives by government are useful, but an open, diverse and law-abiding environment are important. American culture and history, not government, foster entrepreneurship.” 

- Arthur I. Cyr Director, Clausen Center, Clausen Distinguished Professor, Carthage College


Other recent studies by WalletHub explored the Most and Least Innovative States and the Best and Worst States for Millennials.

  • North Carolina came in 21st for Most Innovative (Virginia was 7th)
  • North Carolina ranked 20th for Millennials (Virginia was 17th)

All was not lost to NC’s northern neighbors, however.

In another study, for the 100 Best Large Cities to Start a Business, NC had three cities in the top ten, while Virginia had none.

Here are all the NC/VA cities on that list and their rankings:

  • 6th- Charlotte, NC
  • 7th- Durham, NC
  • 8th- Raleigh, NC
  • 33rd- Winston-Salem, NC
  • 41st- Greensboro, NC
  • 83rd- Virginia Beach, VA
  • 89th- Norfolk, VA
  • 100th- Chesapeake, VA
winner sign

Big deal. Who cares about these lists anyway?

According to some economic development experts… you should.

In a 2014 article for the Economic Development Journal, Dariel Y. Curren wrote:

“Rankings and surveys have consistently registered in the top five choices of corporate executives and site selection consultants when asked to select the sources of information that influence their perceptions of a community’s business climate.”

While these rankings aren’t the only contributing factor to business site selection, it definitely helps narrow down the field.

Curren went on to say that the Forbes “Best States for Business” list was considered the most important ranking survey by corporate executives and location advisors.

It just so happens that North Carolina has been top dog on that list for the last two years.

We’ll have to wait and see if the Tar Heel State can hold onto that crown for 2019.


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Topics:North CarolinaHampton RoadsRankingsEconomic DevelopmentVirginia

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