Real GDP declines in 2009 for 38 states, including Pa. and N.J.

Recurring budget woes aside, California has an economy against which all other states are compared.

The state is a magnet for technology talent and an incubator, production line, and even slaughterhouse for industry-changing ideas and products. At $1.7 trillion, its economy is the biggest of the 50 states.

So everyone knows that California is the elephant. But who is the mouse?

Well, it’s not Rhode Island, the smallest state. It’s real gross domestic product was $43.2 billion in 2009, according to data released Thursday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Or tiny Delaware, which had real GDP of $54.9 billion last year.

Nope. It’s Vermont at $23.4 billion. (For comparison, DuPont Co. had 2009 revenue of $26.1 billion.)

The numbers are part of an annual look at state GDPs by the BEA. The new report showed real gross domestic product decreasing in 38 states in 2009 thanks to that deep recession that ended in the middle of the year.

The hardest-hit state was Nevada, with real GDP falling 6.4 percent, followed by Michigan, down 5.2 percent, and New York, down 4.3 percent.

Pennsylvania (down 1.0 percent), New Jersey (down 2.4 percent), and Delaware (down 1.8 percent) took their lumps, too. Pennsylvania’s real GDP of $500 billion places it as the sixth-largest in the nation. New Jersey is No. 7 at $437.4 million.

But on a per-capita real GDP basis, Pennsylvania ranks only No. 27, at $39,674. As it has been for several years, Delaware is No. 1, at $62,080. Meanwhile, New Jersey placed at No. 6, at $50,227, in a squeaker over New York, with $50,208.

Pa.’s Vital Signs

Another recent report worth a look is a snapshot of Pennsylvania’s economic vital signs issued by the state Treasury Department.

Called the McCord Report, after current Treasurer Rob McCord, the four-page pamphlet aggregates statistics, such as monthly tax revenue and employment, that are available through other agencies if you’re willing to hunt.

McCord, who described himself as an “obsessive” consumer of data, said he intends for the report to be a nonpartisan, unbiased source of numbers relevant to the health of the state’s economy. There’s no position statement here, but simply a collection of charticles.

One shows Pennsylvania’s 9.0 percent unemployment rate in September was lower the U.S. rate of 9.6 percent. and compares it to neighboring states, such as Ohio at 10 percent and Maryland at 7.5 percent.

You won’t spend more than five minutes reading the McCord Report, but some of the factoids might prompt further research. For example, why did housing permits rise 19 percent in Pennsylvania in September, while they fell 11.5 percent nationwide?

Look for some data to recur, such as monthly tax-revenue figures. Other charts, such as the one this time listing the state’s biggest employers, will be one and done.

And you knew already that the state’s biggest employer is Wal-Mart Stores Inc., right?


Some even worry that the economy might fall into a deflationary trap. I am not one of them. Indeed, I am more optimistic than many about the future path of the economy. However, I share the frustration of many with the pace of recovery.

- Charles I. Plosser, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, in a speech at the Cato Institute Thursday.