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If you want to live the American dream, you’ll need to move out to the West or Midwest or South, according to an annual ranking of the best states to make a living from MoneyRates.com, a personal finance website.
The study ranked the 50 U.S. states by their cost of living, median wages, state taxes, unemployment rates and workplace safety. It also factored in the current coronavirus pandemic and which states have lost jobs under shelter-in-place orders. Thirty-two states have seen rises in unemployment since mid-March, the study states.
Rounding out MoneyRate.com’s top-10 list for the best states to make a living in 2020 is Washington, followed by North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Texas, Illinois, Kansas, Tennessee, Colorado and Oklahoma.
Despite having a significant coronavirus outbreak that made national headlines, Washington notches the top spot for having the fourth-highest median income of any state ($48,140 per year), a low cost of living and no state income tax.
On the flipside, Washington’s job market fell off more sharply than that of most states in the initial weeks of lockdowns because of how hard hit it was from the coronavirus. Its unemployment rate jumped by 1.3 percent in the month of March.
It’s not just Washington that has been impacted by the current pandemic. Job markets varied greatly in each state.
"Our annual ranking of the best states for making a living has never been conducted in the midst of anything as disruptive as the coronavirus pandemic, so this year's results are unique in that they offer a glimpse into which states are built to weather this crisis, and which states could potentially be hit the hardest," said Richard Barrington, a senior financial analyst at MoneyRates.com, about this year’s results.
Alaska, for example, was one of seven states that had its unemployment rate decrease under coronavirus conditions. Nevada, on the other hand, had an unemployment rate that jumped 2.7 percent in the month of March alone – much of which resulted after the shutdown of the service, hospitality and gaming industries in Las Vegas.
The island paradise state of Hawaii ranked at the bottom of MoneyRate.com’s list due to it having the highest cost of living in the nation and the second-highest state income tax.