Fastest Shrinking Local Economy In Every State

The U.S. economy continues to show resilience despite higher interest rates and inflation. The national unemployment rate touched 3.4% in January and again in April this year, the lowest rate since 1969. At the same time, the labor force participation rate — a key metric that measures the number of adults who have jobs or are actively seeking employment — has been steadily rising after sharply declining early in 2020 at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing business shutdowns.

The nation’s GDP has grown in all but seven quarters since 2009. These seven quarters include the two quarters during the early months of the pandemic that were quickly followed by a huge rebound in economic activity in the third quarter of 2020.

But in a country the size of the United States, there are many pockets of economic winners and losers.

Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed historical data on GDP to find the fastest shrinking local economy in every state. Counties and county equivalents were ranked based on the percentage change in real GDP from 2017 to 2021. 

All counties in Delaware, Maine, and Rhode Island reported flat or positive real GDP growth from 2017 to 2021, so the fastest shrinking local economy in those states is the county with the slowest GDP growth over the period. (Here are the best and worst state economies according to new prosperity index.)

These counties with negative GDP growth from 2017 to 2021 indicate areas that the resilient U.S. economy has left behind in recent years. In fact, the economies of 13 counties on the list shrank by at least a third, with the worst contraction hitting the 27,564 residents of southern Ohio’s Adams County, who saw their local economy slashed by nearly half.

Unemployment in 22 of these counties, which have small populations, was above the national rate of 5.3% in 2021. The median population of these 50 struggling countries is about 14,000. Only six have populations higher than 100,000, and only three are home to more than a half million people. Severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and limited on air travel, was Honolulu County, Hawaii –the only country on this list with a population that’s over 1 million residents. (Here are cities that will add the most jobs by 2060 according to economists.)

All but eight of these counties have a per capita GDP that is lower than the national average of $61,855 in 2021. Five of these countries — located in Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, Kentucky, and West Virginia — have per capita GDPs that are lower than $20,000, or less than the per capita GDP of Greece.

Here are the fastest shrinking local economies in the United States.

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