State News

July 6, 2013

Georgia down to 40th in per capita income

Georgia has slipped toward the lower rankings of states in per capita income during the last decade.

Federal data shows Georgia is now 40th among the states. Georgia has been declining since measuring 25th in 2001. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Georgia now has the same ranking it did in 1979.

The actual income figure for Georgia grew to $36,869 last year. But the national figure grew faster to $42,693 and that lowered Georgia’s standing among the states. In recent years, Tennessee and North Carolina have moved ahead of Georgia, now 34th and 38th, respectively. Alabama has been slowly inching upward, now measuring two spots behind Georgia at 42nd.

Per capita income includes not only wages, but dividends, stock sales, rental income and even government assistance.

Economist Martin Shields, director of the Regional Economic Institute at Colorado State University, said the data shows Georgia is adding jobs, but they are lower-paying jobs.

Experts said Georgia enjoyed above average growth in per capita income from 1779 to 2001 due to new businesses and residents flocking to the state, but then Georgia was hit hard by the recession and housing bubble.

Some high-paying jobs remain down. For instance, Georgia had about 144,900 jobs in information technology in 2000. That’s down to about 105,000.

IT accounts for 2.6 percent of Georgia’s jobs and finance 5.7 percent. Retail represents 11.54 percent, but the average pay is much lower at $23,830, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Ross DeVol, chief research officer at the Milken Institute, a think tank in California, said Georgia remains a desirable destination, particularly in metro Atlanta. But he said the combination of recessions, workforce changes, intensifying competition with other states and weakness in creating fast-growing firms has taken a toll reflected in the statistics.

“You combine all those things and you don’t perform as well as the rest of the United States, or as well as the other Southern states,” he said.

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