Study: It pays to live in GJ

Personal income in 2008 grew at fourth-fastest rate in U.S.

By EMILY ANDERSON
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Grand Junction had the fourth highest jump in personal income among the nation’s 371 metropolitan statistical areas in 2008, according to figures released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

A total $4.96 billion worth of income flowed into the Grand Junction area last year.

The average salary per person climbed from $32,422 in 2007 to $34,675 in 2008, ranking as the ninth-best per capita income growth among metropolitan areas in the United States.

The good news may have come too late for many people to enjoy it, though. Gilbert Lujan, a supervisor with the Mesa County Workforce Center, said he’s seen wages listed with new jobs steadily decline since the start of 2009.

“It’s hard to say specifically how much, but I would say it’s across the board,” Lujan said.

Construction jobs, for example, that paid $12 to $13 an hour are now paying $9 or $10 an hour in some cases, Lujan said.

Lujan said more abundant construction and energy-industry jobs may have helped keep income numbers high in 2008. Both industries have dropped jobs since then.

Income growth last year had a beneficial impact for those unemployed when wages were higher. Unemployment benefits, which can reach up to $480 a week, are based on the wage or salary a person most recently earned.

Rising wages in 2008 meant people could start a business without worrying their spouse would have to take a job, and people that worked two weeks on and two weeks off in the gas fields had time and money to start a new venture, Business
Incubator Executive Director Chris Reddin said. But a possible dip in salary actually helps kick-start entrepreneurship, she added.

“Anytime you see a downturn in the economy, that is the time to start a business,” Reddin said.

Some of the Incubator’s businesses have had to cut costs or their own pay, Reddin said, but the Incubator campus hasn’t lost any of its 50 businesses.

The threat or reality of slipping income this year has inspired more business at Wells Fargo Bank. Steve Irion, community bank president for Wells Fargo in Grand Junction, said even when salaries were higher and job losses were fewer, not as many customers were starting or adding to savings accounts.

“People are now saving money at a level much higher than what it’s been in the past,” Irion said. “When things were really rolling along, you have less of a tendency to look at the down side (and save).”


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