N.J. jumps 23 places (to No. 19) in CNBC ranking of Top States for Business

New Jersey makes biggest improvement in annual ranking based on 10 key categories

New Jersey was the most-improved state in CNBC’s annual Top States for Business ranking, jumping 23 places to No. 19 overall. The rankings were released Tuesday morning.

It is the first time in memory that New Jersey was in the top half of the rankings, which rate states on 10 categories, everything from cost of doing business to cost of living — infrastructure to education.

New Jersey ranked highest in a category called “Life, health and inclusion” (ranking No. 3 overall) and Education (ranking perhaps a surprisingly low No. 4).

How N.J. ranks

A look at where New Jersey ranked among the 10 categories that determine CNBC’s annual Top States for Business ranking:

  • Workforce: No. 16
  • Infrastructure: No. 21
  • Economy: No. 19
  • Life, health and inclusion: No. 3
  • Cost of doing business: No. 44
  • Tech and innovation: No. 21
  • Business friendliness: No. 48
  • Education: No. 4
  • Access to capital: No. 11
  • Cost of living: No. 30

Overall, the state improved in seven of the 10 categories.

Yet, despite the jump in the overall rankings, the state still ranked poorly in two key categories: Cost of doing business (No. 44) and being business-friendly (No. 48).

CNBC, in its story on the state, cited New Jersey’s rise in the overall economy category (up to No. 19 from dead last a year ago) as the biggest reason for the state’s big jump in the overall rankings.

CNBC pointed to the fact that the state’s economy grew by 2.6% last year (the 13th-best in the country), and helping to lead the surge is one of the strongest housing markets in the nation. It also noted the state’s ability to make a full pension payment — along with two credit-level upgrades by all the major rating services.

New Jersey’s jump puts it in line with other key Northeast/mid-Atlantic states it is most often compared with:

Massachusetts and Pennsylvania tied for No. 15. And then there’s Delaware (No. 18), New York (No. 20) and Connecticut (No. 31).

New York jumped 16 spots; Delaware jumped 10.

Here’s a look at the Top 10 states overall:

  1. North Carolina
  2. Virginia
  3. Tennessee
  4. Georgia
  5. Minnesota
  6. Texas
  7. Washington
  8. Florida
  9. Utah
  10. Michigan