States with Most Economic Woes Facing Highest Stress

January 13, 2011 (Jeff Alan)
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Feeling a little bit more stressed lately about the current economic situation? Can’t sleep at night thinking about unemployment and foreclosures? You’re not alone. According to the Associated Press’ monthly stress analysis, so are a lot of other people. One month after economic stress reached an 18-month low nationally, it rose in three-quarters of the 3,141 counties the AP analyzed and in 39 states. Unemployment and foreclosures edged up in more than two-thirds of the states. Bankruptcies rose in half the states.

Nearly 40 percent of the nation’s counties are stressed, especially in South Atlantic and Mountain states, which are up from slightly more than one-third in October according to the index. The counties with the largest numbers of workers in real estate, hotel, and food services tend to have the sharpest increases in stress, according to the latest index reading.

By contrast, stress declined the most in counties with many workers in wholesale trade, transportation, financial services, insurance and support jobs.

AP’s stress index calculates a score from 1 to 100 based on unemployment, foreclosure, and bankruptcy rates. The higher the score, the more stressed out an area is, with a score exceeding 11 considered stressed.

The average county’s score in November was 10.3, up from 9.9 in October. It was the highest reading since August’s 10.3 score.

The most stressed states, according to the index, were: Nevada (21.96), Florida (17.14), California (16.42), Michigan (14.83), and Arizona (14.6).

The least stressed states were: North Dakota (4.05), South Dakota (5.17), Nebraska (5.27), Vermont (6.29) and New Hampshire (7.11).

States that were hit especially hard when the real estate bubble burst, California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada, will likely continue to suffer. A big reason is the loss of construction jobs that aren’t coming back.

Over the past three months, Florida has endured the sharpest increase in economic pain, because Florida’s economy is less diversified. Florida also has suffered the third-sharpest increase in stress over the past 12 months, exceeded only by the Mountain states of Colorado and Utah. Colorado, Idaho and other Mountain states fell into recession later than much of the country did, once mining and construction jobs evaporated, tourism fell and their second-home markets fizzled.

The county that recorded the highest stress was Imperial County, Calif. (33.15) and the county recording the lowest level of stress was Sioux County, Iowa (3.71).

I bet they’re sleeping well tonight.

Tags: monthly stress analysis, most stressed states, least stressed states, unemployment, foreclosures, economic woes