Incomes Rose in Just 14 States as U.S. Expansion Remains Uneven

The increase in U.S. household earnings in 2013 was centered in 14 states, indicating the improvement was limited.

Median income climbed 0.6 percent to $52,250 after adjusting for inflation, according to a report from the Census Bureau today using new data from the American Community Survey. Wyoming, with a 5.7 percent gain, and Alaska, which advanced 5.3 percent, were among the states showing increases that were statistically significant, while no state showed a marked drop, according to the report.

The data highlight how geographically spotty the U.S. economic expansion, now in its sixth year, has been. While many households have yet to see their incomes return to pre-recession levels, continued job gains combined with improvement in the stock and housing markets may be strengthening the financial outlook in some parts of the country.

“Labor indicators continue to improve and that’s good for the American consumer overall,” said John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina. However, “there is some geographical disparity in different regions because of the economic concentrations.”

Median income was lower than the national level in 28 states, while it was higher in 19 states and the District of Columbia, today’s report showed. Vermont, Iowa and Pennsylvania matched the median.

On a more local level, the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria region that surrounds the U.S. capital boasted the highest income of the 25 most-populated metropolitan areas, with median household earnings of $90,149. Income was the lowest in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area of Florida, at $45,880.

Biggest Gainers

The areas around New York, San Francisco, St. Louis and Detroit were among those seeing gains in incomes, while the region around Charlotte, North Carolina, was the only one with a statistically significant decline in earnings in 2013.

Household income is defined as the earnings of the householder and all those 15 years and older in the home, regardless of whether they’re related.

This year’s survey also included new questions on computer and Internet access. About 84 percent of the nation’s households have a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone, the data showed, and about 74 percent have access to some form of Internet at home. A more detailed report is expected early next month.

The American Community Survey produces single-year income and poverty estimates for all areas with a population of 65,000 or more, including counties, cities and all congressional districts, as well as on a state and national level, according to the Census Bureau. The sample size includes 3.5 million addresses each year and asks about eight types of income received in the previous 12 months.

Today’s data follows a Sept. 16 report from the Census Bureau that showed poverty fell in 2013 from the prior year for the first time since 2006. That report used data from the Current Population Survey, which includes a sample of about 68,000 addresses and records income from more than 50 sources.

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