CNBC's Top States For Business 2009: New Hampshire Tops Quality Of Life

Millions of Americans have no doubt seen their lives take a turn for the worse in the past year, whether because of a job loss or even a lost fortune.

With people having less to spend and working harder, it’s easy to see how one’s quality of life could decline.

So unsurprisingly perhaps that category—along with the economy one, of course—happens to have seen a major shakeup in the rankings. Only six of last year’s top ten fared that well again in 2009 and even the performance of that group changed significantly.

Those who may have wondered how New Jersey managed to make it to the top in 2008 can rest on their skepticism, because the Garden State tumbled to No. 9 this year.

New Hampshire is the new No. 1, moving up from No. 2. President Barack Obama might not argue with that, seeing as the President’s early campaign victory there, certainly contributed to an extraordinary improvement in the Illinois Senator’s quality of life.

The unemployment rate, which was one of the lowest in the country at 4.3 percent in December of 2008, had risen to 6.8 percent in June of this year, about three full percentage points below the national average. Meanwhile, the state’s decline in payrolls has been modest. That no doubt also helped New Hampshire’s surge in the economy rankings from 41 to 14.

(Of course, another factor is that the rankings were adjusted to include air and water quality, which would more likely depress the weighting of a highly-industrialized, densely-populated state like New Jersey.)

New Hampshire was one of six states to finish in the top ten for the second year in a row; Vermont went from 10 to 2 (in a tie with Connecticut), Hawaii moved up to 4 from 8, Utah improved from 7 to 6 and Coloradoslipped from 7 to 10.

Four states leapfrogged others in making the top ten: Wyomingmoved up to 5 from 17; Massachusetts finished 6 after ranking 15 in 2008; Maine went from 14 to 8; and Connecticut ranked 2nd vs. 11th last year.

Though the top ten have undergone a major shakeup, there was little change in the ten-worst category. Only Oklahoma moved out, ranking 37. Missouri is the new member, placing 41.

Two states didn’t change; Louisiana(50) and Georgia (42). Three others barely budged; South Carolina went from 49 to 48, Delaware 46 to 45 and Alabama 45 to 47. Mississippi (43/48) Arkansas (44/47), Kentucky (46/40) and Tennessee (49/43) round out the bottom ten.