The growing skills gap in the US remains one of the most persistent challenges affecting thriving and lagging state economies, according to a study by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

The study, entitled Re-creating Equality and Opportunity, found that for business, joblessness and economic stagnancy mean many things: a decline in mass consumer demand at home, with particularly negative implications for those that depend on large and expanding consumer markets, such as home builders, appliance makers, energy companies and large retailers.

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“The skills gap is an issue that is not going away anytime soon,” said Matt Ferguson, chief executive of job website CareerBuilder and co-author of The Talent Equation.

To determine where each state stood in the skills gap, the study measured states' overall economic performance, plus five policy areas important for job growth and economic prosperity: talent pipeline; exports and international trade; technology and entrepreneurship; business climate; and infrastructure.

Utah landed in the top six for each of the five policy categories and third for overall economic performance. It was the only state to finish in the top 10 for all six lists. In other findings, Colorado appeared on five top 10 lists, Texas on four. Washington was in the top 15 of five lists.

North Dakota was another strong performer, leading by a large margin in economic performance and ranking first for talent pipeline and ninth for business climate. Florida and Nevada ranked well on many policy measures, a sign that those states may be ripe for an economic turnaround.

Virginia ranked fifth for technology and entrepreneurship, and talent pipeline, helping it land just outside the top 10 for economic performance. Minnesota ranked 10th for economic performance and second in the talent pipeline category. 

The study, the foundation’s fifth of its kind, related policies and practices to the need for collaboration between education, workforce development and economic development to positively combat the growing skills gap in the US. It particularly examined free enterprise policies that are being implemented to promote economic growth at state and local levels.