The United States is a wealthy nation when compared to the rest of the world. Based on per-capita GDP at purchasing-power parity, America ranks as the third-richest country among the world’s top 50 economies, and its economic power can be felt around the globe. The U.S. is a diverse nation, however, and not all of its states and territories are alike in terms of riches. Among America’s states, where are people earning the most?
Taken from data provided by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis and based on 2011 state per-capita GDP in 2005 dollars, here are America’s five wealthiest states and territories. While a few no-brainers make the list, some of the richest states may surprise you.
5: Wyoming, $55,516 per capita
It’s hard to think of Wyoming as one of the wealthiest states in the country, but its citizens do well. In addition to ranking No. 5 in terms of GDP per capita, it’s among the top 10 states by personal income per capita. Wyoming has seen its GDP decline recently, losing 1.2% in 2011 — more than any other U.S. state. While Wyoming’s rank on this list owes partly to its tiny population — it is the least populated state with just 576,000 people in 2012 — its economy is no slouch.
Mining fueled more than $11 billion in GDP in 2011, with the manufacturing, real-estate, and transportation industries also contributing strongly to its economy. Coal mining has been a boon for the state: According to the Energy Information Administration, Wyoming boasted nine of the 10 top-producing coal mines in the U.S. last year, with two mines alone making up 20% of total American coal production. While low prices and waning public sentiment have hurt the coal industry, some firms have thrived in Wyoming. Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE:BTU), the biggest public coal-producer in the world, operates Wyoming’s largest coal mine, the North Antelope Rochelle mine. That mine produced more than 105 million short tons of coal in 2010 alone for Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE:BTU). The company also operates the 10-largest coal mine in America: its Rawhide mine, also in Wyoming, with 2010 production of more than 11 million short tons of coal.
4: Connecticut, $56,242 per capita
Connecticut’s hardly a surprise on this list. Its per-capita GDP ranks high, but its personal income per capita tops all its competitors, as Connecticut’s citizens bring home more than Americans from any other state. The state’s GDP grew by 2% in 2011, and unlike Wyoming, Connecticut boasts a diverse economy with strength across numerous industries, from finance to health care to durable-goods manufacturing. Connecticut’s economic prowess isn’t at all shocking when you take a look at some of the companies headquartered there. United Technologies Corporation (NYSE:UTX), headquartered in Hartford, employs more than 26,000 Connecticut citizens — more than a 10th of its total employee roster.
Connecticut has also forged its share of innovative firms, with Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ALXN) a standard-bearer in that regard. Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ALXN) earned its big breakthrough with its orphan drug Soliris, a treatment for an ultra-rare cause of anemia that has emerged as a blockbuster for this small firm. Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ALXN) recently earned another orphan drug designation for a new experimental therapy under development, keeping this company at the forefront of Connecticut’s innovative edge — an edge that has fueled this state’s wealth.
3: Alaska, $61,853 per capita
Alaska has thrived in America’s energy boom. The U.S.’ largest state by territory boasts not only a strong per-capita GDP but also provides its citizens with a top-10 per-capita personal income that ranks above much more populous states such as California and Rhode Island. Alaska’s GDP was the fifth-fastest-growing state economy in 2011, and a recent decision by the state’s legislature to offer tax breaks to leading oil firms could send Alaska’s economy surging even higher.