Personal income rose significantly in Whatcom County and much of the rest of the nation last year, according to a new federal report.
Whatcom County's per capita personal income was $38,098 in 2011, a 4.3 percent increase from the previous year, according to newly released data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
In 2010, the growth was 2 percent. In 2009, Whatcom's personal income declined 2.6 percent, the first decline in this area in 40 years.
Whatcom's growth in 2011 was nearly identical to 4.4 percent increase nationwide in per capita personal income. Personal income rose in all 366 metropolitan statistical areas for the first time since 2007, according to the report.
Personal income, as defined by the bureau, is the income received by all persons from all sources. Along with net earnings at work, it includes rental and interest income as well as government benefits.
Whatcom's per capita personal income in 2011 ranked 153rd highest out of the 366 metro areas.
Whatcom's increase was not strong enough to begin closing the gap in the Seattle area. According to the bureau, per capita personal income in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area rose 4.6 percent in 2011, to $50,944.
Whatcom had been slightly closing the gap on King County in recent years, but it is difficult to say what the trend will be going forward while job growth remains uneven, said Hart Hodges, director at Western Washington University's Center for Economics and Business Research.
Hodges is currently studying wage growth and how it relates to the job mix in different geographic areas. He plans to address the topic at next month's U.S. Bank Economic Outlook Forum in Bellingham.
Odessa, Texas, had the largest annual increase in per capita personal income, at 12.4 percent, followed by Midland, Texas, at 11.9 percent. According to the report, both areas reported strong earnings growth in oil/mining and related activities.
Rochester, Minn., and Biloxi, Miss., had the slowest annual growth, at 0.3 percent.
Much of the growth in personal income came from work (up 5.5 percent) and property income (up 7.6 percent) across all of the metro areas. Transfer receipts, which include Social Security and unemployment insurance, increased by 1.5 percent in 2011, down from a 7.1 percent increase in 2010.
Bridgeport, Conn., had the highest annual per capita personal income among metro areas, at $78,504. McAllen, Texas, had the lowest, at $21,620.
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