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Washington ranked best state in country for second time in a row

Clouds near Mt. Rainier. (National Weather Service)

For the second time in a row, Washington has been ranked by U.S. News as the best state in the entire country.

The list compiles its ranking by weighting a handful of categories, with the Evergreen State receiving high marks in Education (4th), Economy (4th), Infrastructure (3rd), Fiscal Stability (6th), and Health Care (8th).

Despite Washington not ranking as the top state in any single category, “consistency is key,” U.S. News noted, and Washington and Minnesota were the only two states to be in the top 25 across all eight factors considered for the list. Washington found itself closer to the middle of the pack in the Natural Environment (15th), Crime & Corrections (19th), and Opportunity (25th) categories.

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Its lower ranking in the Opportunities category was largely driven by “the state’s high living and labor costs,” although its “low-carbon energy system and robust secondary education system continue to rank among the nation’s best.” Seattle’s status as a hub for major tech companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook — each of which employs thousands of workers in the city — was also a boon to Washington’s presence in the top spot.

It’s not just tech that makes Washington a desirable state, though, with the list also pointing to “expansions in the life sciences, clean energy, and space projects,” as well as a strong agricultural industry.

After a year marred by the pandemic, U.S. News noted that the recession “landed more softly in Washington” compared to 2008, when the collapse of Seattle-based bank Washington Mutual marked “the largest bank failure in U.S. history.” Despite that fact, the state’s 7% unemployment rate is still “among the highest in the country,” with the brunt of 2020’s struggles falling on small businesses.

Of the four times U.S. News has published its “Best States” ranking, this marks the first time it’s seen a repeat winner.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued a statement on Washington’s ranking on Tuesday afternoon, which reads as follows:

I am so happy for the people of Washington to take home this honor again. It takes all 7.6 million of us to make this state the dynamic place it truly is. Washingtonians are motivated to lead and innovate in all aspects of our society, in labor, business, education, health, and so much more. It was that same spirit that helped us bounce back from being the first state in the nation hit by COVID-19, and we are on our way to a robust recovery because of our unique attributes.

Rounding out the top five behind Washington are Minnesota, Utah, New Hampshire, and Idaho, respectively. Holding down the bottom five spots in order are Alabama, West Virginia, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Washington’s southern neighbor, Oregon, found itself sitting at 22nd on the list, scoring 2nd for Infrastructure, but ranking between 13th and 42nd across the seven other categories.

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