Set it in stone! South Dakota is 2013 Top State for Business
Bringing up the Rear
We score all 50 states, so if there are Top States, there must be Bottom States as well. And just like at the top, we have a shakeup at the bottom this year as well.
No longer in the Bottom Five is perennial loser Alaska, which climbs to 44th place from 47th thanks to big improvements in Cost of Doing Business and Business Friendliness.
Mississippi also moves out of the lower echelon solidly improving to 41st from 46th on its rock-bottom costs. The Magnolia State pays the nation's lowest wages, and commercial space—particularly retail—is dirt cheap.
Joining the Bottom Five this year is Nevada, which finishes 46th, falling from 45th last year. The Silver State is still mired in the housing crisis, with the highest foreclosure rate in the nation. With the highest unemployment as well, it is no wonder Nevada finishes at the bottom of our Economy category. It also finishes at the bottom for Education, and near the bottom for Quality of Life and Access to Capital.
California, barrels into the Bottom Five this year, moving to 47th place from 40th last year. The Golden State has an apt nickname when it comes to Cost of Doing Business—California's business costs are the most expensive in the country. In fact, the state finishes near the bottom in every metric of business costs that we track. But California is a land of extremes. No state comes close for Access to Capital, where California finishes first. And it finishes second, behind New York, for Technology & Innovation.
State 48 is West Virginia, unchanged from 2012. The Mountain State notches its worst numbers in the Workforce category, where it finishes last. Workers there are the nation's least educated, population growth is stagnant, and the state's heavy union presence—West Virginia is a non-right-to-work state—hurts it in the category. West Virginia also comes in last for Business Friendliness. Even in its strongest category, Cost of Doing Business, West Virginia can manage no better than 19th.
Rhode Island, the Ocean State, climbs ever so slightly out of the depths this year to 49th place. The state came in 50th last year. A perennial loser in our study, Rhode Island finishes near the bottom this year for Economy, Infrastructure and Business Friendliness. In fact, the state is in the bottom 10 in every category except for Cost of Doing Business where it comes in 32nd, Quality of Life at 20th and Access to Capital at 23rd.
America's Bottom State for Business turns in a dismal performance across the board—almost.
It has the worst Infrastructure, the highest Cost of Living, minimal Access to Capital and among the highest Cost of Doing Business.
After we ranked the state near the bottom in 2012, an economic development official was quoted as saying, "We always rank at the bottom. It's not something new."
But the Bottom State does have one thing going for it: the nation's Top Quality of Life. And with that, America's Bottom State for Business 2013—Hawaii—gets the last laugh.
(Read more: Hawaii Hits Bottom as Worst State for Business)
—By CNBC's Scott Cohn. Follow him on Twitter @ScottCohnCNBC.