A recent study by WalletHub ranked Washington the best economy among all U.S. states in 2023. California, usually known for its strong economy, came in fifth. The study examined 50 states and the District of Columbia using 28 key indicators of economic strength, categorized into economic activity, economic health, and innovation potential. These indicators also included GDP change, exports per capita, unemployment rate, adjusted median household income, and share of high-tech and STEM jobs.
Washington ranked first overall and held high positions in several categories, tying with Louisiana, Oregon, and Texas for exports per capita and California and Massachusetts for independent inventor patents per 1,000 working-age population. It also secured second place for the average educational attainment of recent immigrants and the number of high-tech jobs. However, the state ranked poorly in unemployment, tying with Delaware for 47th, and came 46th for state-government surplus per capita.
Washington’s success was attributed to fast-growing firms, high exports per capita, a large share of high-tech jobs, and strong innovation potential. However, WalletHub’s methodology received criticism, notably from the National Federation of Independent Business, who claimed the rankings were biased towards the tech sector. Mike Fong, director of Washington’s Department of Commerce, recognized the state’s achievement while acknowledging the need for continued work on economic opportunities for all residents. Despite the economic prosperity, Washington’s unemployment rate of 4.3% exceeded the national average of 3.6%.