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Five States With the Biggest Drops in Income, and the Four That Gained in 2009

As everyone already knows, 2009 was a terrible economic year for a lot of Americans, but some people had it worse than others. A handy table in today’s Wall Street Journal allows us to break down the five states that had the biggest declines in per capita income, and the rugged four that saw an increase — and what the rest of their financial pictures look like.

The Worst

5. Idaho

Although few outside of Idaho talk about Idaho now that Larry Craig isn’t toe-tapping in a wide stance in the Minneapolis airport, times were tough in Idaho last year! The Spud State was more of a dud state, with a 4.1 percent decline in per capita income, an 8 percent average unemployment rate (better than the national average!) and a 6.6 percent decline in home values.

4. Arizona

John McCain’s home state didn’t see an end to its troubles in 2009, as the Copper State’s per capita income went down by 4.1 percent even as actual copper prices went up. Housing prices were down 13 percent and the unemployment rate was 9.1 percent.

3. South Dakota

Although no one is loudly contemplating the addition of Ronald Reagan to Mount Rushmore anymore, the Mount Rushmore State had bigger problems in 2009, as per capita income fell by 4.4 percent. Somewhat protected from the unemployment plaguing much of the rest of the country, an average of only 4.4 percent of South Dakotans were unemployed. Better yet, it was one of 18 states that didn’t see a decline in housing prices, as they went up by 1.6 percent in 2009. Still, it’s a fair bet that the winter was miserably cold.

2. Nevada

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, as the saying goes, but neither money, jobs nor housing prices stayed in Vegas in 2009. Unlucky Nevadans saw per capita income drop 5.8 percent, the unemployment rate skyrocket to an average of 11.8 percent and housing prices fall like a lead balloon a grand total of 17 percent. Lady Luck apparently found a new watering hole.

1. Wyoming

Per capita income in Wyoming dropped by 5.9 percent and housing prices plummeted by 6 percent. The average unemployment was only 6.4 percent, but the state’s most famous jobless resident — the ex-VP — decamped for a secret bunker elsewhere.

The Best

4. Maryland

Terps fans might not have a lot to cheer about, but in this economy, a 0.3 percent increase in per capita income was cause for celebration. Housing prices are down 5.5 percent, but average unemployment at 7 percent was under the national rate.

3. Vermont

Vermonters were able to crack a smile over something other than delicious ice cream or flavorful cheddar: Per capita income was up a whole half percent in 2009. As in Maryland, average unemployment was under the national average at 7 percent, and housing prices dropped by only 1.3 percent. Looks like it’s time for a little spoonful of celebration.

2. Maine

Residents of the Pine Tree State had reason to smile in 2009: a 1 percent increase in per capita income and a 1 percent increase in home values. At 8 percent, unemployment, too, was slightly below the national average.

1. West Virginia

Although West Virginians are not often at the top of lists, they are when it comes to income increases in 2009, and their 1.8 percent increase in per capita income won out. Housing prices were down 2.7 percent — hardly the steepest decline — and unemployment was under the national average at 7.9 percent. Not a bad showing for the Mountain State!

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