Statistics on personal income for the nation’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in 2009 were released this morning by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The national economy was hitting the trough of a recession in 2009, so it is not surprising that the majority of MSAs experienced negative growth last year. From the BEA press release: “Personal income declined in 223 MSAs, increased in 134, and remained unchanged in 9 MSAs. On average, MSA personal income fell 1.8 percent in 2009, after rising 2.7 percent in 2008.”
The map of metro areas from BEA, displayed below, shows that income growth in Arkansas’ MSAs was mixed, but generally better-than-average. Pine Bluff was in the highest-growth quintile, with Little Rock in the second quintile. The remainder of the state’s MSAs ranked in the third and fourth quintiles, with none finishing among the bottom fifth.
Table 1 provides more detail, comparing personal incomes of Arkansas’ MSAs to the total metropolitan portion of the U.S. Personal income declined in 5 of the state’s 7 MSAs, but increased in the Pine Bluff and Little Rock. Income growth in each of Arkansas’ MSAs out-performed the nation’s metro areas as a whole.
Table 2 shows figures for per capita income in Arkansas MSAs. In per capita terms, only Pine Bluff experienced positive income growth in 2009; Its growth rate of 1.6 percent puts it in the top 25 among the nation’s metro areas. Fayetteville’s per capita income declined slightly more than the national average, and Jonesboro’s decline was about equal to the total metropolitan portion of the U.S. The other 5 MSAs in Arkansas experienced smaller losses than other metro areas across the nation.
The last two columns of Table 2 show per capita income in Arkansas’ MSAs as a percent of per capita income in the metropolitan portion of the U.S. The latest data show that Arkansas’ metro areas generally remain below-average. Fort Smith, Jonesboro, and Pine Bluff are in the lowest quintile of MSA per capita personal income. Fayetteville, Hot Springs, and Texarkana are in the fourth quintile. The MSA with the highest per capita income, Little Rock, ranks in the second quintile. Despite the fact that Arkansas’ metro areas outperformed other parts of the country in 2009, they gained little ground terms of per capita income.
The 2009 comparison of personal income in Arkansas’ MSAs to the rest of the nation’s metro areas is affected by two factors. First, the recession in Arkansas was not generally as severe as in many parts of the country. This accounts for the fact that all of Arkansas’ MSAs experienced above-average income growth. On the other hand, evidence from statewide income growth and Arkansas taxable sales suggest that Arkansas reached a trough in economic activity in the third quarter of 2009 — one quarter later than the national economy. This tends to depress measured growth rates for the year compared to those parts of the country that entered an economic recovery phase earlier than Arkansas. As a result, the annual income statistics for Arkansas’ MSAs in 2009 reflect more weakness than do current economic conditions.