Personal incomes in valley up in 2011, first rise since 2008

For the first time since 2008, last year personal income increased year-over-year in Mesa County.

Total personal income across the county increased 5.08 percent in 2011 compared with 2010, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. County residents brought in $5.17 billion in personal income last year, equivalent to $35,169 in income per person in Mesa County.

Last year marks the second time Mesa County personal income has climbed above $5.1 billion in the 43 years the Bureau of Economic Analysis has measured local personal income. The only other time that has happened was in 2008, when the bureau counted $5.42 billion in personal income in the county.

While wage and salary payments as a whole increased in 2011 compared with the previous year in Mesa County, personal income also includes earning from rent; interest; dividends; and payments for unemployment, disability, retirement, military, veteran and other benefits.

Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Diane Schwenke said most local businesses she spoke to did not increase wages in 2011. She said at least some of the increase may be attributable to pay earned outside the county by workers who maintain an address here but work out of state, including contractors, home developers, and oil and gas workers who commute to areas where the economy rebounded at a faster pace.

“I think in 2011 income was coming back into the community, but it wasn’t necessarily being driven by activity within the community,” Schwenke said.

Payments for most benefit types also increased year-over-year in 2011 with the exception of unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefit payments in Mesa County decreased to $61,010,000 last year, an amount still well above 2008’s disbursements of $12,352,000 for the unemployed.

Suzie Miller, business services manager for the Mesa County Workforce Center, said new filings for unemployment benefits in the county hovered around 400 to 500 most months in 2010 before declining to the 300s during most months in 2011. While the unemployment situation improved, Miller said wages aren’t likely to budge much until the job market better resembles pre-recession 2008.

“We’re still at a high enough unemployment rate that employers can be fairly thrifty with their wages,” she said, citing Mesa County’s 8.3 percent unemployment rate in October. “Once we get to a point where employers see less-qualified candidates applying, we’ll see higher wages.”

This time last year, installation and repair, health care, production and, to a certain degree, extraction were popular industries in the workforce center’s job listings. The Bureau of Economic Analysis listed improvement in wages year-over-year in 2011 in 12 job categories in Mesa County, including mining, manufacturing, retail, health care and transportation. Six areas experienced declines: arts, entertainment and recreation; construction; finance and insurance; government; management; and utilities.

The top three industries for personal income accumulation in 2011 in Mesa County were government with $595 million, health care and social assistance with $516 million, and mining with $311 million.


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