Jan 14, 2024 - Economy

How America's boom states could shape the '24 campaign

Change in real GDP growth, by state
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis; Map: Deena Zaidi/Axios Visuals

The 2024 campaign for president will unfold amid a striking economic phenomenon: soaring growth rates and ultra-low levels of joblessness in the South and Mountain West, regions that include swing states and several that lean Republican.

Why it matters: The new regional booms help explain why many Americans say they're miserable about the national economy — but are decidedly more upbeat about how things seem closer to home.

  • In the new Axios Vibes survey, conducted with The Harris Poll, more than half the respondents rated the national economy as weak.
  • But a smaller share — 38% — said the same about their community and region.

The intrigue: Republican respondents were more likely to say the U.S. economy was weaker than their local economies. Red states such as Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina and lean-red Florida are among the biggest beneficiaries of the new boom.

  • That reflects the scope of the challenge ahead for President Biden as he touts his economic record to a skeptical public: Some of the biggest improvements in the economy have come in places unlikely to support him.
  • The good news for the Democratic president: Nevada and Arizona — politically divided swing states that will be crucial in the presidential race — are soaring as well.

What's happening: Pandemic-era migration trends, private investment, an influx of federal dollars and more have helped create the new superstar areas. The boom was just beginning to take shape during the 2020 election.

State of play: All states have seen their respective economies keep growing since Biden took office. But for some states, the growth has come in a trickle.

  • The economy in Mississippi, a solidly red state, has barely grown (+0.6%, according to an Axios analysis) since the last election. It's the slowest-growing state, with Biden's home state of Delaware a close second.
  • Meanwhile, Washington — a solidly blue state — is among those soaring. Its economy has been the fifth-fastest grower since the first quarter of 2021, reflecting the surge of remote workers who flocked to the state.

What they're saying: "Growth in states like Florida and Texas went from outpacing the nation slightly before the pandemic to radically leading growth," said Joseph Politano, a former analyst at the Bureau of Labor Statistics who recently analyzed state growth trends in his weekly Substack newsletter.

Of note: Politano found that hiring has surged in Rocky Mountain and Southern states — while states such as California have seen payroll gains lag behind the rest of the country "after comfortably leading the U.S. throughout most of the 2010s."

  • "Obviously, someone like [Florida Gov.] Ron DeSantis can't think the entire country is collapsing," Politano said, "because his state's economy is doing pretty well."
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