For states looking to land on the positive end of this annual ranking, the lessons are simple: Offer healthy wages, manageable taxes, a low cost of living, and safe working environments. No extra points will be awarded for scenic beauty.
“The big picture is good–the job market is getting better these days, we’ve even seen wage growth start to tick up. But it kind of breaks down a little when you start to look state by state,” said Richard Barrington, senior financial analyst for MoneyRates.com and author of the study.
“We tend to talk about the U.S. economy and the job market as if they’re all one thing, but it’s too big for that. There are sharp differences from one state to another.”
To determine the best and worst states to make a living this year, personal finance site MoneyRates.com considered average wages, taxes, cost of living, unemployment rate, and incidents of workplace safety incidents (including illness, injuries, and deaths) for each state. The study drew on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), and D.C. think tank the Tax Foundation.
Washington state cedes its lead this year to Texas which moves out of second place to claim the title of the best state to make a living this year. Texans benefited from a lower than average cost of living that helped them maximize average wages only slightly above average. Very low numbers of workplace safety incidents coupled with no income tax puts the Lone Star State on top, while Washington moves to second place.
“Neither one really has anything to feel bad about,” said Barrington. ”If you live in either of those states, your prospects for making a good living are well above that national average.”