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The economic surge feels like a drag? Your state may be underperforming

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(NEW YORK) — The U.S. economy shattered expectations in recent weeks, extending a run of overachievement that has quieted some of the most skeptical economists.

Americans, however, remain sour. Less than 3 in 10 adults rate current economic conditions as “excellent” or “good,” a Pew survey last month found.

The dynamic holds significant implications for a potential general election rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. The economy is the top issue for voters, an ABC News/Ipsos poll in November found.

The disconnect between triumphant economic performance and glum sentiment traces in part to elevated prices at the grocery store or in the housing market, as well as a partisan reluctance among some to acknowledge success under Biden, experts told ABC News.

But, they added, the enthusiasm gap may also owe to the divergent economic performance between states, and even between localities within those states. This uneven reality betrays the rosy nationwide picture, especially when it comes to the challenge posed by high expenses, experts said.

“It really does depend on where you’re living,” Lee Bowes, CEO of job-placement firm America Works, which provides training and resources for low-income people nationwide, told ABC News. “A place like Fresno, by California standards, is a less expensive place to live. San Francisco is a complete disaster.”

At the national level, the economy performs well on just about every measure of economic health. Inflation is falling, job growth is surging and gross domestic product is proving much more resilient than expected in the aftermath of near-historic interest rate hikes.

Since the middle of last year, the pace of wage growth has even exceeded that of inflation, leaving earners with more money to spend, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows.

An ABC News analysis of state-level economic data, however, shows a sizable gap between the best-performing states and localities, and the worst-performing ones.

Seven states grapple with a convergence of three negative trends: lower-than-average growth, above-average unemployment and above-average gas prices. Some of those states are among the nation’s most populous, including California, New York and New Jersey.

Within those states, some cities face much more difficulty than others. In New York City, for example, the unemployment rate stands at 5.4%, far exceeding the nationwide rate of 3.7%.

Meanwhile, expenses in the borough of Manhattan are 122% higher than the average city, according to the Cost of Living Index from the Council for Community and Economic Research. Only 3 in 100 home listings in New York City are affordable for a typical household, a Redfin report found.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, prices are way up,” Mark Jaffe, CEO of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, told ABC News, citing a steep rise in prices compared to where they stood pre-pandemic. “It’s a huge problem.”

By contrast, eight states boast better-than-average unemployment, GDP growth and gas prices. An additional state, North Dakota, stands tied for the nation’s lowest unemployment rate and holds one of its lowest average gas prices.

North Dakota’s largest city, Fargo, carries the second-lowest unemployment rate of any metropolitan area in the U.S., Bureau of Labor Statistics data show. Further, the city has lower-than-average cost of living and higher-than-average median income.

“Many would not think Fargo is having the growth that it is,” Shannon Full, president and CEO of the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce, told ABC News.

The city plays host to a growing tech sector, focused especially on agricultural products such as autonomous farming equipment, Full added.

“That’s one of our best kept secrets,” she said.

Full characterized sentiment among businesses and consumers as “cautious optimism,” citing the opportunity afforded by a combination of strong job growth and affordable cost of living.

To be sure, attitudes about the economy have improved in recent months, data shows. Consumer sentiment soared in January but remains well below pre-pandemic levels, a University of Michigan survey found.

When asked whether they prefer Biden or Trump on the issue of handling the economy, voters chose Trump by a margin of more than 20 percentage points, according to an NBC News poll released on Sunday.

In a statement to ABC News, Biden campaign spokesperson Seth Schuster touted the current state of the economy, saying it puts the campaign in a position to win reelection.

“President Biden is proud to run on a record of falling inflation, historically low unemployment, and rising consumer confidence — a winning economic record Donald Trump could only dream of,” Schuster said.

The Biden campaign did not respond directly to ABC News’ question about the disconnect between economic performance and consumer sentiment.

Dennis Hoffman, an economics professor at the University of Arizona, said overall negative sentiment about the economy derives in part from conservative voters who refuse to offer a positive assessment because the current president belongs to the opposition party.

“This group will say the economy is terrible, then they hang up the phone, order off of Amazon and go out to dinner,” Hoffman told ABC News. “They go on with their lives and they’re fine.”

Still, Hoffman added, the variation in economic conditions across states and localities could also help explain the gap between economic sentiment and performance.

“It’s a possible explanation,” Hoffman said. “Some states are more dynamic than others.”

How is your state’s economy doing?

Each statewide statistic is followed by one of the following:

  • + = better than where the metric stands nationwide
  • — = worse than where the metric stands nationwide
  • * = matches where the metric stands nationwide

Nationwide

  •     Unemployment: 3.7%
  •     GDP growth: 4.9%
  •     Gas prices: $3.15
  •     Home prices: $402,646
  •     Median income: $74,580

Alabama

  •     Unemployment: 2.6% +
  •     GDP growth: 4.1% —
  •     Gas prices: $2.89 +
  •     Home prices: $271,300 +
  •     Median income: $59,110 —

Alaska

  •     Unemployment: 4.5% —
  •     GDP growth: 4.1% —
  •     Gas prices: $3.49 —
  •     Home prices: $370,700 +
  •     Median income: $89,740 +

Arizona

  •     Unemployment: 4.3% —
  •     GDP growth: 4.9% *
  •     Gas prices: $3.24 —
  •     Home prices: $430,000 —
  •     Median income: $73,450 —

Arkansas

  •     Unemployment: 3.4% +
  •     GDP growth: 0.7% —
  •     Gas prices: $3.24 +
  •     Home prices: $241,300 +
  •     Median income: $73,450 +

California

  •     Unemployment: 5.1% —
  •     GDP growth: 4.8% —
  •     Gas prices: $4.58 —
  •     Home prices: $756,800 —
  •     Median income: $85,300 +

Colorado

  •     Unemployment: 3.4% +
  •     GDP growth: 5.8% +
  •     Gas prices: $2.75 +
  •     Home prices: $548,200 —
  •     Median income: $89,930 +

Connecticut

  •     Unemployment: 3.8% —
  •     GDP growth: 4.7% —
  •     Gas prices: $3.21 —
  •     Home prices: $380,400 +
  •     Median income: $90,730 +

Delaware

  •     Unemployment: 4.2% —
  •     GDP growth: 3.3% —
  •     Gas prices: $3.15 —
  •     Home prices: $337,600 +
  •     Median income: $80,750 +

Florida

  •     Unemployment: 3.0% +
  •     GDP growth: 6.1% +
  •     Gas prices: $3.21 —
  •     Home prices: $403,800 —
  •     Median income: $65,370 —

Georgia

  •     Unemployment: 3.4% +
  •     GDP growth: 4.5% —
  •     Gas prices: $3.02 +
  •     Home prices: $355,800 +
  •     Median income: $67,730 —

Hawaii

  •     Unemployment: 2.9% +
  •     GDP growth: 3.7% —
  •     Gas prices: $4.67 —
  •     Home prices: $757,800 —
  •     Median income: $91,010 +

Idaho

  •     Unemployment: 3.3% +
  •     GDP growth: 7.0% +
  •     Gas prices: $2.90 +
  •     Home prices: $460,900 —
  •     Median income: $72,580 —

Illinois

  •     Unemployment: 4.8% —
  •     GDP growth: 4.1% —
  •     Gas prices: $3.20 —
  •     Home prices: $257,100 +
  •     Median income: $78,020 +

Indiana

  •     Unemployment: 3.6% +
  •     GDP growth: 4.8% —
  •     Gas prices: $2.96 +
  •     Home prices: $240,000 +
  •     Median income: $70,030 —

Iowa

  •     Unemployment: 3.2% +
  •     GDP growth: 4.1% —
  •     Gas prices: $2.83 +
  •     Home prices: $221,400 +
  •     Median income: $76,200 +

Kansas

  •     Unemployment: 2.8% +
  •     GDP growth: 9.7% +
  •     Gas prices: $2.76 +
  •     Home prices: $253,800 +
  •     Median income: $73,040 —

Kentucky

  •     Unemployment: 4.3% —
  •     GDP growth: 4.9% *
  •     Gas prices: $2.84 +
  •     Home prices: $243,100 +
  •     Median income: $55,880 —

Louisiana

  •     Unemployment: 3.7% *
  •     GDP growth: 6.6% +
  •     Gas prices: $2.85 +
  •     Home prices: $241,100 +
  •     Median income: $58,330 —

Maine

  •     Unemployment: 3.2% +
  •     GDP growth: 4.9% *
  •     Gas prices: $3.20 —
  •     Home prices: $363,600 +
  •     Median income: $75,160 +

Maryland

  •     Unemployment: 1.9% +
  •     GDP growth: 2.7% —
  •     Gas prices: $3.20 —
  •     Home prices: $395,400 +
  •     Median income: $108,200 +

Massachusetts

  •     Unemployment: 3.2% +
  •     GDP growth: 4.8% —
  •     Gas prices: $3.15 *
  •     Home prices: $577,400 —
  •     Median income: $93,550 +

Michigan

  •     Unemployment: 4.3% —
  •     GDP growth: 2.9% —
  •     Gas prices: $2.99 +
  •     Home prices: $229,600 +
  •     Median income: $68,990 —

Minnesota

  •     Unemployment: 2.9% +
  •     GDP growth: 4.1% —
  •     Gas prices: $2.89 +
  •     Home prices: $321,500 +
  •     Median income: $90,390 +

Mississippi

  •     Unemployment: 3.3% +
  •     GDP growth: 0.8% —
  •     Gas prices: $2.75 +
  •     Home prices: $228,800 +
  •     Median income: $48,610 —

Missouri

  •     Unemployment: 3.3% +
  •     GDP growth: 4.0% —
  •     Gas prices: $2.80 +
  •     Home prices: $240,000 +
  •     Median income: $71,520 —

Montana

  •     Unemployment: 3.2% +
  •     GDP growth: 4.2% —
  •     Gas prices: $2.90 +
  •     Home prices: $515,100 —
  •     Median income: $72,980 —

Nebraska

  •     Unemployment: 2.3% +
  •     GDP growth: 7.5% +
  •     Gas prices: $2.83 +
  •     Home prices: $271,600 +
  •     Median income: $78,360 +

Nevada

  •     Unemployment: 5.4% —
  •     GDP growth: 6.3% +
  •     Gas prices: $3.85 —
  •     Home prices: $434,800 —
  •     Median income: $72,300 —

New Hampshire

  •     Unemployment: 2.5% +
  •     GDP growth: 4.5% —
  •     Gas prices: $3.09 +
  •     Home prices: $440,300 —
  •     Median income: $84,970 +

New Jersey

  •     Unemployment: 4.8% —
  •     GDP growth: 4.8% —
  •     Gas prices: $3.14 +
  •     Home prices: $484,500 —
  •     Median income: $92,340 +

New Mexico

  •     Unemployment: 4.0% —
  •     GDP growth: 5.7% +
  •     Gas prices: $2.84 +
  •     Home prices: $329,200 +
  •     Median income: $56,420 —

New York

  •     Unemployment: 4.5% —
  •     GDP growth: 3.5% —
  •     Gas prices: $3.28 —
  •     Home prices: $499,200 —
  •     Median income: $75,910 +

North Carolina

  •     Unemployment: 3.5% +
  •     GDP growth: 4.6% —
  •     Gas prices: $2.99 +
  •     Home prices: $358,500 +
  •     Median income: $65,070 —

North Dakota

  •     Unemployment: 1.9% +
  •     GDP growth: 2.9% —
  •     Gas prices: $2.82 +
  •     Home prices: $235,200 +
  •     Median income: $78,720 +

Ohio

  •     Unemployment: 3.7% *
  •     GDP growth: 4.6% —
  •     Gas prices: $3.00 +
  •     Home prices: $221,800 +
  •     Median income: $67,520 —

Oklahoma

  •     Unemployment: 3.4% +
  •     GDP growth: 6.0% +
  •     Gas prices: $2.68 +
  •     Home prices: $230,700 +
  •     Median income: $63,440 —

Oregon

  •     Unemployment: 3.7% *
  •     GDP growth: 4.8% —
  •     Gas prices: $3.60 —
  •     Home prices: $491,100 —
  •     Median income: $86,780 +

Pennsylvania

  •     Unemployment: 3.5% +
  •     GDP growth: 5.6% +
  •     Gas prices: $3.38 —
  •     Home prices: $270,700 +
  •     Median income: $72,210 —

Rhode Island

  •     Unemployment: 3.2% +
  •     GDP growth: 3.9% —
  •     Gas prices: $3.09 +
  •     Home prices: $452,200 —
  •     Median income: $80,650 +

South Carolina

  •     Unemployment: 3.0% +
  •     GDP growth: 5.7% +
  •     Gas prices: $2.90 +
  •     Home prices: $363,600 +
  •     Median income: $61,770 —

South Dakota

  •     Unemployment: 2.0% +
  •     GDP growth: 5.2% +
  •     Gas prices: $2.82 +
  •     Home prices: $299,300 +
  •     Median income: $67,180 —

Tennessee

  •     Unemployment: 3.5% +
  •     GDP growth: 5.2% +
  •     Gas prices: $2.84 +
  •     Home prices: $371,800 +
  •     Median income: $65,380 —

Texas

  •     Unemployment: 4.0% —
  •     GDP growth: 7.7% +
  •     Gas prices: $2.84 +
  •     Home prices: $343,600 +
  •     Median income: $74,640 +

Utah

  •     Unemployment: 2.8% +
  •     GDP growth: 6.1% +
  •     Gas prices: $2.83 +
  •     Home prices: $537,800 —
  •     Median income: $95,800 +

Vermont

  •     Unemployment: 2.2% +
  •     GDP growth: 3.9% —
  •     Gas prices: $3.22 —
  •     Home prices: $376,600 +
  •     Median income: $72,190 —

Virginia

  •     Unemployment: 3.0% +
  •     GDP growth: 4.2% —
  •     Gas prices: $3.05 +
  •     Home prices: $408,000 —
  •     Median income: $85,170 +

Washington

  •     Unemployment: 4.2% —
  •     GDP growth: 5.1% +
  •     Gas prices: $3.92 —
  •     Home prices: $588,000 —
  •     Median income: $89,430 +

West Virginia

  •     Unemployment: 4.3% —
  •     GDP growth: 3.7% —
  •     Gas prices: $3.01 +
  •     Home prices: $282,000 +
  •     Median income: $52,460 —

Wisconsin

  •     Unemployment: 3.3% +
  •     GDP growth: 5.0% +
  •     Gas prices: $2.81 +
  •     Home prices: $275,400 +
  •     Median income: $73,330 —

Wyoming

  •     Unemployment: 3.0% +
  •     GDP growth: 5.7% +
  •     Gas prices: $2.68 +
  •     Home prices: $392,100 +
  •     Median income: $73,090 —

Sources:

  •  Unemployment: Seasonally adjusted unemployment rate by state in December 2023, per U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • GDP growth: Real gross domestic product growth in the third quarter of 2023, at an annual rate, per U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  • Gas prices: Average price per gallon of gas on Feb. 7, 2024, per AAA.
  • Home prices: Median home prices in December 2023, per Redfin.
  • Median income: Inflation-adjusted median household income by state for 2022, per St. Louis Federal Reserve.

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