Best and Worst States to Make a Living in 2016

Best and Worst States to Make a Living in 2016

It’s not you, it’s me. That could be your state talking when it comes to your career. If your career is failing to provide you with the opportunities you want, it might not have anything to do with your resume or profession, but your location.

An annual study found strikingly different conditions for making a living from one state to another. Being able to distinguish the problem states from the ones providing strong opportunities might help you make a timely strategic relocation.

To determine the best and worst states to make a living this year, personal finance site considered average wages, taxes, cost of living, unemployment rate, and indicates of workplace safety incidents (including illness, injuries, and deaths) for each state.

Here are the top 5 best states to make a living:

  1. The number one state to stretch your dollar. The median income is above average at $38,280 and goes far because of the state’s low cost of living and no state income tax.
  2. A higher than national average median salary ($42, 190) and no state income tax keeps Washington in the number two spot again this year.


  1. The below-average cost of living and low unemployment rate helps move Virginia to the No. 3 spot despite slightly high state tax rates.


  1. North Dakota. For several years North Dakota has been enjoying an economic boom that has made it a great place for job opportunities. In addition, the state features above average wages and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation at 3.1 percent.


  1. Down to the No. 5 spot after being in the top spot in 2015, but a low cost of living, a strong job market, and no state income tax keeps the longhorn state in the running.

Here are the top 5 worst states to make a living:

  1. The cost of living is just as spectacular as the natural beauty. Zillow reports the median home value in Hawaii is $556,200 – almost three times higher than No. 1 Wyoming’s median home value at just $193,300, according to the latest data as of March 31. Add to that the third-heaviest percentage state tax burden, and your hard-earned dollars won’t go very far.
  2. The cost of living is almost 30-percent higher in Oregon than in the nation as a whole not to mention the highest state tax burden for the typical wage earner.
  3. West Virginia. At just $30,240, the median annual wage is third-lowest in the nation and that’s if you can find a job. The unemployment rate is tied for second-highest of any state.
  4. Work-related health incidents are the highest in the nation. Add that to having the fourth heaviest tax burden on average earners of any state makes it a challenging place to make a living.
  5. While California has one of the top-10 median wages in the country, the cost of living is the third-highest in the state. Not to mention the unemployment rate being higher than that of most states.

Didn’t find your state on this list? Find the full ranking of all 50 states here.