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Bridge Michigan
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Michigan metros see income boost

Personal income rose in 2011 in all of the nation’s 366 metropolitan statistical areas for the first time since 2007, according to estimates released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. When adjusted for inflation, however, 44 metros actually experienced income loss.

Leading the pack were the Odessa and Midland metros, both in Texas, showing the highest year to year growth at 8.9 and 8.4 percent, respectively. Per capita personal income for metropolitan areas as a whole increased by 1.1 percent.

The Michigan story is what is most interesting in the new data. Eleven out of our 14 metropolitan areas showed strong year to year income growth between 2010 and 2011 (see details in Table 1). Southeast Michigan took the lead with Monroe, Detroit and Ann Arbor at the top, followed closely by Bay City and Grand Rapids leading the charge. Each of these areas saw income grow by more than 2.5 percent. For all but Bay City, this growth represents a trend that just started one year previous (2009-2010).

Ann Arbor and Detroit continue to be significantly below their recent high water mark in 2000, while Bay City has remained relatively consistent over the decade. Jackson, Saginaw, Flint, and Muskegon also saw their incomes grow by at least 2 percent.

When was the last time that Michigan could brag that we had nine metros in the Top 65, with Monroe in the Top 20, and Detroit, Ann Arbor and Bay City in the Top 40?

An argument can be made that, while an important indicator of growth, percent change is often a factor of the level at which one starts. Michigan metros have obviously taken a hit over the past decade and have fallen below the national average. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that no Michigan metro reached the national average for metropolitan areas -- $43,169. Detroit had exceeded the national average until 2005, while Ann Arbor held on until 2006. By 2011, Ann Arbor was at 95 percent of national and Detroit was at 93 percent.

Table 1: Per Capita Personal Income for Michigan Metropolitan Areas, 1999-2011 (in 2011 dollars)

While Holland regained some of its decade losses with a 1.6 percent gain, Niles-Benton Harbor, Battle Creek and Lansing were stagnant.

The good news continued at the county level where 73 counties experienced income growth; two experienced no change; and only eight experienced a decrease. Of these eight counties, six were in the Upper Peninsula, while the other two – Eaton and Ingham – were in the Lansing-East Lansing metropolitan area.

Table 2: Per Capita Personal Income for Michigan Counties, 1999-2011 (in 2011 dollars)

Michigan started the last decade in 2000 with a per capita personal income that was 97 percent of the national average. The last time that Michigan exceeded the national average was in 1995. Michigan continued to lose ground throughout the decade and stood at a mere 87 percent of the national average by 2011.

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