In the diverse landscape of the U.S., certain states find themselves grappling with the stark reality of declining industries that once boosted their local economy. As the winds of change sweep through the nation's various sectors, these states, once thriving hubs for the businesses they were once lauded for, now face serious challenges.
The repercussions are easy to see, from the decline of traditional manufacturing to shifts in energy production and technological advancements. These 24 states have experienced major hardships due to the now diminishing industries many in the working class once relied on.
This New England state has long been esteemed for its textile mills and fabric production industry. The Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in Manchester, New Hampshire, was once the largest textile factory in the world. Unfortunately, today, the textile production industry in the state is rapidly declining. Some suggest this is because of Covid 19’s impact on retail, with multiple business closures.
The industry taking the biggest hit in Vermont may surprise you. Farming-related industries, such as dairy and egg production, have declined recently. Statistics suggest that the decline is upwards of 44% in small Vermont farms that once contributed to the 0.8 billion dollar agricultural industry. Officials report that this decline is partially due to less land available for farming coupled with the rising cost of farmland.
What was once the backbone of the American economy is now a failing industry in Pennsylvania. The steel production industry has steadily been declining in Pennsylvania. However, in December of 2023, one of Pennsylvania’s last major surviving US-owned steel mills was sold to a Japanese competitor, Nippon Steel. According to one local source, the Japanese purchase of US Steel’s Edgar Thomson Plant resulted in tens of thousands of steelworkers losing their jobs.
A state largely recognized as a national leader in the agricultural industry is currently experiencing a major decline in farm-related jobs. The lack of availability in jobs includes positions for farmworkers, nursery workers, and greenhouse workers. The reason for this decline is surprising- advancing technologies have created less need for manpower on farms and in agricultural-related spheres.
The auto industry is taking a big hit in many Midwestern states, including Missouri. The decline in the auto industry is directly connected with new tariffs being applied to auto parts made of steel and aluminum. As a result, some Missouri economists suggest that 75,000 jobs have been lost in the auto industry due to increased steel and aluminum tariffs.
The most rapidly declining industry in Maryland is a trend across our country. The manufacturing industry of Maryland has drastically decreased in recent years. The main cause of this decrease is being cited as manufacturing being outsourced overseas, where it is more cost-effective to make items in areas in Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia.
Massachusetts is yet another state experiencing a decline in manufacturing. More specifically, the manufacturing of electrical equipment and machinery. This decline had started before Covid-19 but was exacerbated by the pandemic. As a result, much of the manufacturing for the state occurred in China and Taiwan, where it cost less to make the electrical equipment and machinery.
Michigan is also experiencing a decline in its manufacturing industry. However, the primary reason for this decline differs from other states discussed. The state is changing from a manufacturing industry to a knowledge-based industry. This includes growth in industries like finance, insurance, and business services. This change in industry corresponds with the vast growing number of advanced degrees.
Ohio is also dealing with a declining auto industry. However, the reason is quite different than previously discussed. Ohio once led the country in producing rubber. Nowadays, Ohio continues to have rubber plants shut down across the state. The latest number available records a 23.6 percent decrease in rubber production employment in Ohio. This is very drastic for the state that once led the rubber production industry in our nation.
Although not considered an agricultural powerhouse like other states, Connecticut still has an agricultural industry that is no longer thriving. More specifically, the fishing sector of the agriculture industry is struggling. Historically, this industry has been a very important local food source and employee. Commercial fishing in Connecticut is experiencing this decline due to the changing climate of the area and water temperatures.
The declining industry in Oregon is unlike any other discussed so far. In Oregon, the craft beer industry is experiencing a noticeable decline. Recent reports say that of the 400 breweries that were once opened in the state, 30 have closed as of late. Professionals in this industry attribute changing consumer habits to this decline, stating that the recent pandemic resulted in more people staying rather than going out. This corresponds with the surge in the use of apps like Uber Eats, DoorDash, and other food delivery apps.
The healthcare industry is experiencing a dramatic decline in Wisconsin. Unlike other industry declines, this is not the result of a lack of job availability but rather a shortage of workers willing to do the jobs. After working on the frontlines of COVID-19, many healthcare workers reported feeling burnout and changing career directions despite the tempting bonuses used to lure more medical professionals back into the field.
Minnesota is another state in our country dealing with a declining manufacturing industry. Like other states experiencing a similar decline, the main reason for the reduction is capitalizing off cheaper labor costs abroad. The main manufacturing sector experiencing job loss is the production of computers, appliances, and electrical products.
This state has long been known for its Tobacco industry. Tobacco is historically praised as being the cash crop of Virginia that fueled its economy for generations. However, tobacco in Virginia is now considered a dying industry. In the late 1900s, over 6,000 large tobacco companies flourished in the state. However, recent reports suggest less than 300 small tobacco farms are in business – a possible explanation behind this decrease is the uptick in vaping instead of smoking cigarettes.
Iowa is another Midwestern state thought to be an agricultural powerhouse within our country experiencing a major industrial downturn. The section of agriculture dealing with the most in Iowa is the Hog production industry. Numbers report that Iowa has lost nearly 90% of its hog farms.
The leading cause of this decline is a consolidation of farms, meaning smaller operations getting bought out by larger ones. As a result, Iowa lawmakers are seeking legislation that will help protect farmers from large corporate monopolies in local food production systems.
Illinois is currently leading the nation in failing small businesses, which is considered a decline in the service sector industry. The failure stems from declining revenues that started after the Pandemic. Data shows that 61% of Illinois small businesses only make half of their pre-pandemic revenue. The small businesses most impacted are boutiques, salons, and gyms.
The public service industry in Indiana is currently experiencing quite a decline. More specifically, Indiana is dealing with a teacher shortage that many consider a crisis. Currently, there are over 2000 teacher positions that are currently unfilled.
Teachers are leaving the profession in droves because of inadequate pay, classrooms that are too full, and rising costs teachers pay out of pocket for their classrooms. In addition to teachers, Indiana is always experiencing a shortage of bus drivers, support staff, and school administrators.
Many consider construction an invincible industry. However, the residential construction industry has faced a 15% decline in North Carolina. The major explanation for this decline is the high-interest rates required to secure a loan to build homes. Consequently, the decline in construction contracts has resulted in a loss of construction jobs, impacting contractors and their hired help, including the framers, trim workers, drywall workers, and many more.
The declining industry in Hawaii is due to the recent wildfires that devastated the island of Maui. The damage caused by the fires has led to a dramatic decrease in the tourism industry. However, on the other hand, the economy is experiencing a boom in the construction industry. Unfortunately, this does not help those in the tourism industry experiencing job loss in the hotel, resort, and hospitality industries.
Wyoming has historically been one of the top oil and natural gas-producing states in the western United States. Although its oil production has contributed to that climb, the natural gas industry is experiencing a decline that it has never faced before.
In 2022, Wyoming drilled 48 new gas wells. However, they are currently only utilizing three of the wells in the state. This speaks to the decline in production and the desire to extract the national gas in the state.
As one of the states on the Gulf Coast, Mississippi once had a thriving aquaculture industry. The industry is suffering due to multiple factors, including natural phenomena and man-made disasters such as the major oil spill of 2010 that still has lasting implications.
The most impacted resource within the declining industry is oyster production. To combat the reduction in oyster production, Southern Mississippi University is constructing an Oyster research and hatchery center that will aid in restoring oysters in the aquaculture industry.
The largest shrinking industry in Delaware is Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting. Farming, in particular, has plummeted nearly 10% in the last year. The leading cause is the increase in cost associated with renting land to farm.
Many farmers do not own the land they tend in Delaware but rent it from landowners who are now tempted to sell land to developers for major profit. Farmers are also competing with the state’s solar panel industry and seeking to rent land to place solar panels on.
North Dakota is currently experiencing a decline in their mineral extraction industry. Both oil and natural gas drilling have decreased dramatically in the last year.
Professionals in the industry contributed directly to the decline of Biden’s administration and their politics that are encouraging the nation to move away from fossil fuels. Although this decline in mineral extraction is in the name of fighting climate change, it is causing job loss for many in North Dakota.
Recent publications in Montana indicate that the state’s outdoor recreation industry is suffering due to climate change. The state stands to lose approximately 8,800 jobs in the industry due to increased droughts and wildfires that prevent tourists from traveling to that state that typically attracts outdoor enthusiasts.
Data already displays the rise in water temperatures altering the fisheries around the state. As a result, the fishing recreational industry, in particular, has seen a reduction in revenue, with some reports estimating losses of up to $62 million.