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Utahns’ income jumps 6.1%

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Utah had one of the highest levels of personal income growth last year, but state residents' earning power still lags behind the rest of the nation, with one of the lowest per-capita income averages among the states.

The figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis indicated Utah had the seventh-highest rate of per-capita income growth, at 6.1 percent in 2007, while having the 45th lowest per capita income at $31,189.

Louisiana topped the list of states with the highest income growth, at 9.2 percent, followed by New York, Mississippi, Connecticut, North Dakota, Wyoming and Utah. Arizona and Tennessee tied for the bottom of the list at 3.4 percent per-capita growth in 2007.

"Construction helped strengthen Utah's economic growth, along with durable goods, manufacturing and retail trade," said bureau economist David Lenze.

Utah far outpaced the national average in percentage growth in those three industries, as well as transportation and warehousing, he said.

Utah's per-capita income growth was above the national average. U.S. per-capita income grew 5.2 percent in 2007, down from 5.6 percent in 2006, the report said.

Inflation, as measured by the national price index for personal consumption expenditures, slowed to 2.6 percent in 2007, down from 2.8 percent in 2006, the report said.

Connecticut led the nation with the highest average per-capita income of $54,117, a level 40 percent above the national average of $38,611. Mississippi had the lowest per-capita income of all states, at $28,845 — 25 percent below the national average.

Utah was 19 percent below the national average in 2007, but the state's average per-capita income of $31,189 was a slight increase from last year, when the Beehive State was ranked 47th with an average per-capita income of $29,406.

Pam Perlich, senior research economist at the University of Utah's Bureau of Business and Economic Research, said Utah has experienced a record number of births over the past nine years, but income growth has actually outpaced the high birth rate.

"Because we have so many kids, our per-capita income is low," she said. "The jobs we're creating are better paying, on average."

But she warned that personal income growth will likely decrease during the current recession, along with per-capita income.

U.S. personal income grew 1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007, keeping pace with the quarter's 1 percent rise in the price index for personal consumption expenditures, according to the report. Utah ranked 10th in fourth-quarter 2007 personal income growth, at 1.2 percent.

"Income for the working-age person is increasing, but that growth is expected to decrease in the current economic downturn," Perlich said.

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com