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Economy in Brief

State GDP in 2018:Q3
by Charles Steindel  February 26, 2019

This morning BEA released the first estimates of GDP by state for 2018:Q3. These figures tend to be released with a fairly substantial lag; the government shutdown delayed them by only about 3 weeks. Washington is estimated to have had far and away the fastest rate of real growth, at 5.8% at an annual rate. Utah’s 4.4% figure was second highest. Two other Southwestern states—Nevada and Arizona—also had growth rates above 4%. In general, the West and Southwest grew strongly, with most states in the area having growth above the nation’s 3.4% pace. Alaska, with a meager 1.0% rate of growth, was the most marked exception in the area, though Hawaii, New Mexico, and Wyoming also had numbers on the low side.

In the eastern half of the nation, the larger Northeastern states generally grew at about the national clip (the two largest states, New York and Pennsylvania has modestly smaller 2.8% gains, while Maryland was somewhat lower at 2.3%). Virginia, Georgia, and Florida all also clocked in very close to, or a bit above, the aggregate pace. The states in the Ohio and Mississippi Valley were all under par, with West Virginia reporting virtually no real growth (0.2%).

The GDP by state figures are derived by allocating the recently-released industry output numbers across the states. Washington’s very large increase was, not at all surprisingly, said to be disproportionately attributable to gains in information (a full 1.4 percentage points). Again, to no surprise, the weaknesses in West Virginia and Alaska are largely chalked up to losses in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas production. Losses in agriculture weighed down states in the Midwest and Plains, apparently mostly those that are major corn and soybean producers.

Nominal GDP numbers don’t get the attention of the real growth figures, but they do provide an objective way of gauging the absolute size of states’ economies. California’s nominal GDP is nearing $3 trillion at an annual rate, which not only puts into perspective the recent headlines about the cost of the troubled high-speed rail project, but is also nearly $1.2 trillion larger than that of number 2 Texas.

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