How states stack up on growth

Posted: June 12, 2012

When it comes to describing states in terms of growth of their gross domestic product, big doesn't necessarily mean lumbering.

California has long been the nation's biggest state in terms of economic output. According to the latest statistics from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Golden State had real GDP of $1.74 trillion in 2011 and ranked 10th in terms of percent change from 2010, or 2.0 percent.

Texas, the second-largest state economy with real GDP of $1.15 trillion, ranked fourth in percent change, with 3.3 percent.

Then there is Pennsylvania, whose economic output amounted to $500.4 billion in 2011, according to BEA. That made it the nation's sixth-largest by real GDP, but its percentage change since 2010 was just 1.2 percent — good enough for 22d place nationally.

Pennsylvania lagged U.S. real GDP, calculated by BEA as 1.5 percent in 2011. That overall U.S. figure was down from a 3.1 percent increase in 2010.

In all, 43 states experienced an increase in real GDP in 2011. New Jersey, the nation's seventh-largest in terms of economic output, was not one of them. The Garden State saw its real GDP decrease by 0.5 percent to $426.8 billion.

Tiny Delaware booked its third straight year of growth with its $57.3 billion economy. Its 1.6 percent increase in 2011 — good enough to rank 17th among the state — meant the Diamond State grew faster than the nation as a whole.

Small can be nimble. After all, North Dakota was No. 1 in terms of percentage growth at 7.6 percent, thanks to its booming oil industry. But at $34.3 billion, North Dakota remains a dot in GDP terms.

The biggest contributor to Pennsylvania's growth was durable-goods manufacturing, which BEA said was true for 26 states in 2011. Wholesale trade and health care were the other big positives for Pennsylvania, while real estate was the biggest negative.

Good times, bad times

The key to economic forecasts, as in comedy, is all in the timing.

That's why some of the results of the latest Livingston Survey of professional forecasters, released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia last week, may produce chuckles or heckling, depending on the audience.

The 32 economists who responded to the survey raised their estimates for growth in 2012 while lowering their projections for the unemployment rate throughout 2012. That may seem strange, given the weak employment report earlier this month and much hand-wringing over how bad a cold the U.S. may catch from Europe's latest bout of financial crisis.

But remember timing? The Livingston survey questionnaire was sent on May 17 and the last forecast was received on or before June 1 — which happens to be the same day the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics issued that very downbeat jobs report.

The unemployment rate in May was 8.2 percent, and the survey respondents see it stepping down to 8.1 percent in June and 8.0 percent by December. Seems reasonable, except that many observers now fear that the employment picture will get worse, not better, in the second half of 2012.

Anyone like a do-over?

Contact Mike Armstrong at 215-854-2980 or marmstrong@phillynews.com, or @PhillyInc on Twitter. Read his blog, "PhillyInc," at www.phillyinc.biz.

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