New DIVER Geo Scores, Drought Update, Export Challenges

Categories: Commentary |

April 6, 2015

This week we start with a review of our proprietary DIVER Geo Scores, highlight the strongest and weakest States as well as provide you a link to get the scores themselves.   We provide an update to drought conditions in California and identify some states that face export challenges.

March Geo Scores

Last week, we released the most recent DIVER Geo Scores for States, counties and cities. The DIVER Geo Score represents a relative score of the economic health of a U.S. State, county or city. Based on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the best, this data is updated monthly and is calculated from multiple economic and demographic factors related to three primary data categories—employment, income and housing.

The DIVER Geo Scores are available here.


Other than some shifts in ranking, the list of ten strongest States was unchanged from last month.  At the lower end of the spectrum, Arizona and Tennessee climbed out of the ten weakest.  They were replaced by Indiana and Arkansas.  While still in the bottom ten, Florida’s economy has shown steady improvement.

A look at the Geo Scores of Florida’s counties shows that the improvement in Florida’s economy has been most pronounced in southeastern counties of Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin. At the city level, Miami, Port St. Lucie and Tallahassee have all shown strong improvement.

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Drought Conditions Continue in California

In response to a severe ongoing drought, Gov. Jerry Brown announced new residential and business water use restrictions in California last week.

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The chart above illustrates just how extreme the drought situation has been in California.  Statewide drought conditions have been at high levels since January 2013.  The only county in California that is not currently experiencing drought conditions is Del Norte (a coastal county bordering Oregon).

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There’s More to the Trade Deficit Story than the Port Strikes

Last week the Commerce Department announced that the U.S. trade deficit had narrowed to its lowest level since 2009.  Many attributed this improvement to the strike at the West Coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.  We believe that the good news on the trade front may be temporary.

We worry that the strong dollar and weak international demand for commodities will hurt export dependent states.  While the West Coast strikes were likely one factor impacting the trade deficit, State level data from the Census Bureau indicates there are other factors impacting the trade balance.  According to the Census Bureau, 29 States saw a decline in their exports between February 2014 and February 2015.

While exports were down by 9% in California, declines in Texas (-10%) and Louisiana (-23%) accounted for almost half of the national decline.  January 2015 data for the Port of Houston shows a 74% decline in volumes at its Bulk Material Terminal.

Other States with declines not attributable to the strike were Massachusetts (-17%), Maryland (-27%) and New Jersey (-10%).

Declines in petroleum prices, shifting currency values, and the uneven pace of recovery in the different national economies, complicates the always difficult task of analyzing international trade flows and their impact on State economies.

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Have a great week,

Michael Craft, CFA


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