A perennial contender since CNBC began ranking the states in 2007, the Tar Heel State moves up to No. 3 this year. The state came in fourth last year. North Carolina's best categories are workforce and infrastructure, finishing third in both and it improved to ninth in the cost of doing business category. But North Carolina lost ground in the economy category. The economy is bouncing back, but like the rest of the country, it has a lot of ground to make up. Unemployment remains above the national average at 9.7 percent. North Carolina managed to close a $2.5 billion budget gap, but it took a bruising session of the state legislature and painful cuts in education. The budget cuts the state sales tax. The corporate tax rate, 6.9 percent. North Carolina's largest private employer is Food Lion, and its largest industries are insurance and financial services.