WASHINGTON — Some Utah residents may already think the state is a great place to live or work, but now they have official data to back it up.

Utah finished second in The CQ Press state livability rankings, up two slots from its fourth-place finish last year. It was also declared one of the top 10 states to support businesses.

New Hampshire has claimed the top spot in the livability rankings for five years in a row, while Mississippi has finished at the bottom for nine years. The rankings are in "State Rankings 2008: A Statistical View of America," published by CQ Press.

"This impressive ranking is a reflection of our state's unparalleled quality of life and exemplary economic success," Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said in a statement. "Utah truly offers 'Life Elevated.'"

CQ Press, a division of Congressional Quarterly, based its rankings on 44 different factors, ranging from education, economic development, public safety, environment and public health to median household income and the crime rate, sunny days and infant mortality rate.

"Utah boasts one of the nation's lowest unemployment rates, while maintaining one of the highest job-growth rates," said Jason Perry, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development. "Our focus on education along with our skillful work force makes Utah a great place for doing business. The affordable cost of living, the beautiful scenic life, and the countless recreational opportunities truly qualify Utah as one of the 'Most Livable States in the Nation.'"

Meanwhile, Utah ranks nine out of 10 in a report issued Wednesday called "Keeping Jobs In America: Pollina Corporate Top 10 Pro-Business States 2008." The annual study evaluates of job creation and retention efforts of the federal government and all 50 state governments.

"For the second year in a row, Utah's political leaders have proven that they truly understand what it takes for a state to provide an environment for business growth and expansion," according to Dr. Brent A. Pollina, vice president of Pollina Corporate and the study's author. "Utah continues to place strongly in the areas of employee quality, good infrastructure, low corporate taxes and high quality of life."

Utah is just above Kansas in the rankings, while North Carolina took first place.

"This report continues the good business news for the state of Utah. To again be recognized in the 'Pollina Corporate Top 10 Pro-Business States' acknowledges the momentum Utah maintains in its job creation and retention efforts," Huntsman said. "While the national economy struggles, Utah companies continue to grow and recruit top-quality professionals with long-term, high paying jobs in Utah."

The Pollina study evaluates and ranks states based on 28 factors, including taxes, human resources, right-to-work legislation, energy costs, infrastructure spending, workers compensation legislation and jobs lost or gained.

Last month, Utah was ranked first in the The Pew Center on States Government Performance Project for 2008. The state got an overall "A minus" for how the government manages information, people, money and infrastructure.

E-mail: suzanne@desnews.com