Personal income up in state

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Personal income increased in all of Louisiana’s metro areas during 2011, but Lafayette, Lake Charles and Shreveport were the only cities to beat the national growth rate of 5.2 percent, according to a report released Monday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the two biggest earners in the state, both saw income gains that fell below the national average.

In the Capital Region, personal income was up 4.7 percent over 2010, rising to $31.5 billion. Per capita personal income increased by 4.2 percent, to $38,985. Nationally, per capita personal income increased by 4.3 percent in metro areas during 2011, to $43,169.

In New Orleans, personal income increased by 4 percent to $51.9 billion. Per capital personal income was up 2.5 percent to $43,603.

Personal income is defined as all income — including wages, income from property, along with unemployment and Social Security benefits, among other income sources.

Donald Andrews, dean of the Southern University College of Business, said because Louisiana has historically been a low-wage state, any sort of income gains caused by new jobs are going to be below the national average.

“We need to change the mix of industries we depend on,” he said.

Lafayette was the biggest income gainer in 2011, with personal income increasing by 6 percent, to $12.3 billion. Per capital personal income increased by 4.9 percent during that same period, to $44,184, the highest in the state.

Andrews said Lafayette added 5,000 jobs during 2011, which helped to raise personal incomes in Acadiana. Many of the employment gains came in the service and health-care sectors.

“A lot of that could be to support offshore (oil and gas) activity,” he said.

Because Lafayette has a smaller employment base than New Orleans or Baton Rouge, adding several thousand jobs has a bigger impact on the local economy, Andrews said.

“It’s kind of misleading when you look at numbers for a small base over a one-year period of time,” he said. “In a small area, when one industry expands it has a larger impact. New Orleans has a tremendous base, so you won’t see the same relative impact.”

Shreveport-Bossier City was the second-biggest growth rate gainer in the state during 2011. Personal income in the area increased by 5.6 percent to $15.7 billion. Per capital personal income went up by 4.6 percent, to $38,899.

Lake Charles also beat the national average, seeing its personal income increase by 5.5 percent to $7.3 billion. Per capita personal income was up 5.1 percent, to $36,324.

In Houma-Thibodaux, personal income increased by 4.1 percent to $8.8 billion. Per capita personal income was up 3.9 percent to $42,393.

Monroe saw personal income increase by 3.8 percent in 2011 to $6 billion. Per capita personal income was up 3.3 percent, to $33,846.

And Alexandria was the smallest gainer, with personal income increasing by 3.6 percent to $5.7 billion. Per capita personal income was up 3.3 percent, to $36,758.

The income gains in Louisiana have been driven by an increased number of jobs in health care and other sectors, such as leisure and hospitality, trade and transportation, financial services, education and utilities, Andrews said.

Baton Rouge has been impacted by the ongoing cuts in state government, one of the major sectors of the Capital Region economy.

“But overall, the economy is recovering,” Andrews said. Louisiana has one of the lowest overall unemployment rates in the country.” The BEA measured income change across 366 of the nation’s largest metro areas. For the first time since 2007, personal income in all of the nation’s metro areas increased in 2011. Personal income growth in 2011 ranged from a 14.8 percent increase in Odessa, Texas, to a 1 percent rise in Rochester, Minn.