Here are the best and worst states for work in the US

Graphic: Emily Eberly

Oxfam’s new rankings are out: How well does your state support working families?

Oxfam America’s 2023 Best and Worst States to Work in America Index has just been releaseda robust database and interactive map that measures policies that support working families in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

  • Our index tracks 26 policies in three areas: wages, workplace protections, and rights to organize that ensure workers are able to join unions.

  • The rankings come out amid an explosion of labor organizing and workers striking for their rights this summer. The stakes are high for all workers, especially those earning low wages—mostly women and women of color who are often breadwinners for their families.

While the federal government remains gridlocked over raising the minimum wage and paid leave benefits, we take a closer look at what states are stepping up to offer working families better pay and stronger protections. Download the results below.

What are the best states to work in?

California, Oregon, and the federal District of Columbia top Oxfam’s rankings this year. All have strong minimum wages, provide paid leave for families, and ensure child labor protections that make it harder for companies to employ children at younger ages.

#1: California
California is our “best” state to work in because of its strong unemployment benefits, high minimum wage, and heat protections for outdoor workers. The state is tied with the District of Columbia, New York, and Oregon for having the best support for worker organizing.

#2: Oregon
Oregon scores the highest for workplace protections like paid family and medical leave. The state, which also placed first in our 2023 Best and Worst States for Working Women Index, is one of seven states to no longer have a tipped minimum wage policy. This decision goes a long way toward tackling the gender wage gap and gendered poverty.

#3: District of Columbia (D.C.)
D.C. boasts the highest minimum wage in the country at $17/hour and receives top marks for respecting the right for workers to form unions. Yet despite having the strongest wage in the country, D.C. still has work to do—the cost of living remains so high that wages have not kept up with the everyday costs of families.

BSWI download preview graphic (1)

Where does your state rank?

Find out in our 2023 Best and Worst States to Work in America rankings.

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Best and Worst States to Work in America

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Thank you for your interest in our 2023 Best and Worst States to Work in America rankings. We're excited to keep you informed about the fight for workers' rights and other ways you can partner with Oxfam to fight inequality to end poverty and injustice.

What are the worst states to work in?

North Carolina, Mississippi, and Georgia bottom out Oxfam's rankings this year. All have minimum wages stuck at $7.25/hour, no paid leave, and “right to work” laws that make it harder for workers to form unions.

#52: North Carolina
For a fourth straight year, North Carolina is the worst state to work in. The state provides no support for public or private workers who want to organize a union and provides very few workplace protections. This includes no protections against sexual harassment in the workplace, informing its last place position in our Working Women index as well.

#51: Mississippi
Mississippi scores last in workplace protections. Wages are abysmal, and the state is the only one in the country without a basic equal pay law that provides real protections or mandates against pay discrimination.

#50: Georgia
Georgia also does not include any protections against sexual harassment in the workplace. It joins North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas as one of four states to score 0.00 for support of worker organizing.

In what states are workers gaining ground and winning positive change?

This was a huge year for the Midwest—thanks to decades of advocacy by workers, organizers, and community members—with states like Michigan and Minnesota leading the way.

  • Michigan—jumping up five spots in this year's rankings—overturned its “right-to-work” law, the first state to do so in decades.

  • Illinois and Minnesota passed paid leave policies covering both family and sick leave; Minnesota offered up to 20 weeks of paid leave for family leave.

  • Outside the Midwest, Colorado—#8 in this year's rankings—passed new legislation protecting collective bargaining for workers. 

Oxfam celebrates these states for stepping up for workers’ rights, but federal action is desperately needed to lift the standard for every worker in the U.S. so we can build a more equal future for everyone—especially in states where inaction persists.

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