Personal income increased in Whatcom County last year, but at a slower rate than the state average.
Whatcom County residents averaged $42,511 in personal income in 2015, according to a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s a 2.5 percent increase compared to 2014, ranking the increase 30th highest out of 39 Washington counties.
Personal income as defined by the BEA is money received by all persons from all sources. That would include rent income, stock dividends and social security payments. The biggest source of income: wages.
Overall Whatcom’s per capita personal income ranked 17th highest, trailing nearby counties like Skagit, which tallied $44,470 last year after a 3.3 percent increase. Topping the list is King County, which came in at $72,530.
Whatcom’s personal income increase being smaller than most other counties in Washington didn’t come as a surprise to Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist for the state. Given that Whatcom has the ninth-highest population in the state, it takes something significant in the economy to move the needle compared to less populated counties. She noted that other larger counties like King (up 2.4 percent) and Spokane (up 2.8 percent) were also below the state average increase of 3.1 percent.
Another thing to keep in mind is age population structure, she said. With the area having a higher concentration of residents age 16-24 because of the colleges, it has an impact on the income mix. Whatcom is over-represented in terms of people older than 60.
“I think much of the ‘relative sluggishness’ is a function of the population in terms of size and structure,” Vance-Sherman said in an email.
While the 2016 numbers won’t be available for another 12 months, there is an expectation that income growth will be better than 2015.
“We’ve seen more employment in construction and some areas where wages are relatively high,” said Hart Hodges, a director at Western Washington University’s Center for Economic and Business Research. “However, Seattle has seen the same thing with all the apartment and office construction.”
Whatcom County had 90,200 people employed in nonfarm jobs in October, according to data from the Washington State Employment Security Department. That’s 800 more people employed than in October 2015 and 3,300 more people employed than October 2014.
Whatcom County had 300 more people employed in construction in October than a year ago, 700 more than two years ago. The manufacturing sector has also seen growth. In October Whatcom County had 10,000 people employed in manufacturing, which is 700 more people than in October 2014 and October 2015.