Californians' income sees first decline since WWII

Farming communities of Fresno and Bakersfield are among the state's few bright spots

Published August 11, 2010 10:30PM (EDT)

The personal income of California residents declined last year for the first time since World War II, state officials said Wednesday.

An analysis by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis found that statewide income fell by $40 billion in 2009 to $1.56 trillion. That's down about 2.5 percent from the previous year and even lower than the 2007 figure.

Per capita income was a little more than $42,000 in 2009, compared with nearly $44,000 in 2008, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Data released by the agency Monday shows most of the state's metropolitan areas saw personal income decline or remain the same last year.

In the Los Angeles area, personal income fell 3 percent to $551.27 billion from $568.43 billion in 2008. San Francisco saw a 3.3 percent decline to $257.76 billion from $266.68 billion in 2008.

Fresno and Bakersfield were among the few areas that saw personal incomes rise.

Brad Kemp, an economist with Beacon Economics, said the numbers from those Central California cities reflect relatively steady employment in the farming sector.

"The farm industry has always been resistant to job losses," he said. "Food remains a commodity that people can't skimp on."

Overall, the income drop in California was more dramatic than it was nationwide. The U.S. saw an average decline of 1.8 percent in 2009.

"You've got an unholy trinity of three things going on here," said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance.

Between 2008 and 2009, Palmer said, the state lost nearly 900,000 jobs and saw stock and dividend income fall. Wages also declined as people worked fewer hours with less overtime and saw income from sources such as tips and commissions go down.

By Sudhin Thanawala

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