Per-capita income in region rising slowly

Per-capita personal income is rising in the Dayton and Springfield metro areas, but growth has not kept pace with most U.S. urban areas, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Average personal income in 2012 rose 0.9 percent to $39,891 in the Dayton metro area and 0.6 percent to $36,572 in the Springfield area, according to data that has been adjusted for rising consumer prices.

Per-capita personal income includes all forms of earnings, such as wages, interest income, dividends and rents.

But the income growth in the region lagged the 1.2 percent growth rate among U.S. metros. The growth also slowed from the prior year, and it trailed the Akron, Cincinnati-Middletown, Cleveland and Columbus metro areas.

Still, some economists and economic development officials said personal income is trending in the right direction, which means the economic recovery has not been sidetracked.

“On the upside, (Dayton and Springfield) are far from last, which is a good thing,” said Jim Brock, an economics professor at Miami University. “This was a heck of a bad recession, and we’re climbing back slowly. … Things are getting better, just maybe not as fast or as much as we would like.”

In 2012, per capita personal income rose for the third consecutive year in the Dayton metro area and the second straight year in the Springfield metro area. Dayton’s metro area includes Greene, Miami and Montgomery counties. Clark County is the Springfield metro area.

But the rate of growth slowed from 2011 when it was 2.5 percent in the Dayton area and 2.6 percent in Springfield.

Out of 382 U.S. metro areas, Dayton’s growth rate last year ranked 222 and Springfield’s ranked 264.

Average personal income in Dayton and Springfield also was significantly below the U.S. average for metro areas, $45,188.

But none of Ohio’s metro areas have had an average personal income equal to or higher than the national average since 2001. The last time Dayton’s exceeded the national average was in 1979.

Decades ago, Ohio’s urban areas had plenty of high-paying blue-collar jobs in heavy industries, Brock said.

But the hollowing out of the Rust Belt meant that average wages fell, and residents tended to make less than their counterparts in urban areas.

But the manufacturing and automotive industries have undergone a solid revival, and that will help boost many residents’ incomes, Brock said.

Average personal income in all of Ohio’s urban areas increased last year, and the Akron, Cincinnati-Middletown, Cleveland and Columbus metro areas ranked among the top 25 percent for growth nationwide.

Rising average income means people have a little more money in their wallets, and that should translate into higher levels of consumer spending and more sales at local businesses, Brock said.

“I think there is what’s called the multiplier effect, which means if people tend to have more income they tend to spend a little more and that creates income for more people, and their spending creates more income and so on,” he said.

Ohio was heavily reliant on manufacturing and the automotive industry, and those were among the hardest-hit sectors during the last recession, said Jason Antonick, manager of business and development with the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

Per-capita personal income fell because workers in those sectors were laid off and lost their jobs, he said.

But the region is seeing steady growth in education, health care, aerospace, defense and the logistics and distribution sectors, he said. The increase in personal income suggests employers are adding jobs and wages are improving.

“This is yet another indicator that the Dayton region is working its way up from the depths of the global economic recession and evidence our local economy is headed in the right direction,” Antonick said.

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