Incomes on rise in state, region

Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat

The average local income grew between 2010 and 2011, surpassing pre-recession levels, according to a report from a federal agency that tracks economic statistics.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis on Monday released a report detailing personal income levels of every county in the country dating through 2011. According to the report, Tuolumne County's cumulative personal income totalled $2.015 billion in 2011, up about 4.3 percent from 2010 and almost reaching the $2.03 billion level of 2008. In Calaveras County, personal income overall jumped about 4.2 percent to $1.6 billion from 2010 to 2011 and almost reaching the $1.62 billion set in 2008.

That puts the per-capita income for Tuolumne County in 2011 at $36,680 - up from $34,977 in 2011 and surpassing $36,008 in 2008. In Calaveras County, per-capita income in 2011 was $35,828 - up from $34,046 in 2010 and $35,082 in 2008.

The report could be a promising sign of recovery in Northern California in the wake of the Great Recession, as Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Mariposa and Alpine counties all showed similar trends over the same stretch - income peaking in 2008 and declining in 2009, before increasing in 2010 and 2011.

Jeff Newman, spokesman for the BEA, pointed out that in Mother Lode counties, the per-capita number was also boosted by loss of population over the same time frame.

"It's not just personal income growth," said Newman. "You can see there's growth. You have just not recovered back to the 2008 levels."

The personal income summary tallies all types of income - from a workplace, retirement benefits, government assistance and property income. The per-capita number divides the county's total income equally among its residents, offering the annual income of an average resident.

State analysis of median incomes through 2010 have shown different trends over much of the same time. The State Franchise Tax Board's annual report in March showed median income in 2010 sunk for a fourth straight year in both Tuolumne and Calaveras counties to $30,783 and $34,171, respectively.

In 2006, Tuolumne County's median income was $33,040 and Calaveras County's was $34,171. The tax board will likely release the report for 2011 in March. Median income is different than per-capita, as it represents the number where half of the county's earners are above and half are below.

Median income tends to be a better indicator of how distributed the income is in a county, according to Warren Jensen, manager of the applied research program with the Center for Economic Development at California State University, Chico. When median income grows along with per-capita income, it's more likely that the overall income growth is not just among the wealthiest earners.

At the same time, Jensen described this as "a period of time when our economy is struggling to find itself."

"The fact that it's not seeing significant declines right now … is a good thing," he said of the income levels.

The Union Democrat
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