New DIVER Geo Scores Show that New Jersey Economy Continues to Lag

Categories: Commentary |

May 4, 2015

This week we review our recently released proprietary DIVER Geo Score, highlight the strongest and weakest States as well as provide you a link to get the scores themselves.

April 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.


The most notable change in the top ten States by Geo Score is that Massachusetts continues to move up in the rankings.  It now has the 5th highest Geo Score of all States. While the jobless claims data and unemployment rate have shown some weakness in North Dakota, the weakness has not been enough to remove North Dakota from its spot at the top of the list.

Among the bottom ten States, the decline of the Geo Score for Illinois to below Arkansas and Alabama is a warning sign.  As we have seen in Puerto Rico, a weak economy dramatically complicates the task of digging out of a fiscal hole.

Illinois’s low standing is driven by its weak labor and housing markets; in particular, housing foreclosure activity has been elevated in Illinois.  Neighboring States Indiana (Geo Score = 2.2) and Michigan (Geo Score = 2.0) moved out of the bottom ten.

The Geo Score is a helpful measure of current economic health, but can also be used to find trends.

By plotting a State’s current Geo Score against the change in its Geo Score over the last year, we can highlight States that are below average, but getting stronger which may offer opportunities, but also States that are above average, but getting relatively weaker which can present risks.

05-04-15 2

The States in the upper left hand corner of the graph (including Florida, Michigan, and Kentucky) are States with below average current Geo Scores that have shown improvement over the last year.

The States in the bottom right hand corner of the graph (including New York, Maryland, Virginia, Alaska and New Jersey) are States with above average current Geo Scores that have shown decline over the last year.

New Jersey once had one of the strongest State economies in the nation, but has lagged.  Like Illinois and Puerto Rico, New Jersey is also trying to wrestle with fiscal issues at both the State and local levels.

The chart below reflects a widening divide between the economic health of the northern part of the New Jersey relative to the southern part (especially Atlantic County).

05-04-15 3

Foreclosure activity in New Jersey is down from its December ’14 peak.  This has lifted Geo Scores in the State from their lowest levels earlier in the year.


Have a great week, 

Michael Craft, CFA


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