Home > News Release: Local Area Personal Income, 2008
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: 8:30 A.M. ET, Thursday, April 22, 2010
BEA 10—15
Local Area Personal Income, 2008

Today, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released estimates of personal income at the county level for 2008 based on newly available source data. The percent change from 2007 to 2008 in county personal income ranged from -48 percent in Slope County, North Dakota to 54 percent in Faulk County, South Dakota with growth slowing in more than two-thirds of the counties. For the nation, personal income grew 2.9 percent in 2008 after growing 5.5 percent in 2007. A surge in farm income accounted for the bulk of the growth in 29 of the 31 fastest growing counties (the top 1 percent of the nationís counties) as they continued to rebound from sharp mid-decade declines in farm income.

Map of US county local area personal income

Personal income is a comprehensive measure of the income of all persons from all sources. In addition to wages and salaries, it includes employer-provided health insurance, dividends and interest income, social security benefits, and other types of income.

Per capita personal income (personal income divided by population) ranged from $12,558 in Buffalo County, South Dakota to $140,275 in Loving County, Texas.

The county estimates released today complete the successively more detailed series of data releases depicting the geographic distribution of the nationís personal income for 2008. National estimates typically are released one month after the end of the year, state estimates are released two months later, and metropolitan area estimates for 2008 were released in August 2009.

In this release, 3 digit NAICS subsector level detail was restored to 2008 statistics of county compensation. The subsector detail was restored as part of a FY 2010 Budget initiative that provided funding for a comprehensive program to improve the reliability and accuracy of all local area economic statistics.

Personal income and its components are available for 3,112 counties from 1969 to 2008. In addition, detailed annual estimates of earnings and employment, inflows and outflows of commutersí earnings, personal current transfer receipts, and farm gross income and expenses by major category for each county are available. A partial sample of the data available is presented in the attached table for New York County, New York. These estimates are the only comprehensive annual measure of economic activity available for counties. Go to www.bea.gov/regional/reis/ to access these estimates.

A narrative describing county, metropolitan area, and state personal income using current estimates, growth rates, and a breakdown of the sources of personal income is available at www.bea.gov/regional/bearfacts/.

Comprehensive revision of local area personal income statistics

The annual estimates (1969-2008) of local area personal income have been revised to incorporate the comprehensive revision of the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA). Comprehensive revisions, which are undertaken every 4 to 5 years, are an important part of BEAís regular process for improving and modernizing its accounts to keep pace with the ever-changing U.S. economy. Such revisions differ from annual revisions because of the scope of the changes and because of the number of years subject to revision. Comprehensive revisions consist of: (1) changes in definitions and classifications that update the accounts to portray more accurately the evolving U.S. economy, (2) statistical changes that introduce new and improved methodologies and incorporate newly available and revised source data, and (3) presentational changes that make the accounts more informative and easier to use and that reflect the definitional, classification, and statistical changes.

The major definitional change that affects local area personal income is the new treatment of disasters to better reflect the distinctions between current and capital transactions and to bring the NIPA in line with recommendations of the System of National Accounts (SNA) 2008. This raises total personal income in some counties and years affected by major disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Two major methodological improvements were made. The first is an improvement in the measurement of wage and salary disbursements. The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which BEA uses to estimate wage and salary disbursements, does not include employee contributions to cafeteria plans in 28 states where state law excludes these contributions from wages for unemployment insurance purposes. These contributions were estimated using state data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The second is an improvement in the estimation of employer contributions for Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) by industry. Previously, a national estimate of private employer OASDI contributions was allocated to industries in proportion to wage and salary disbursements, overstating contributions in high-wage industries. The methodological improvement uses data on the distribution of employment by wage rates, states, and industries from the Occupational Employment Survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and maximum taxable earnings from the Social Security Administration.

Newly available and revised source data used in the revision of local area personal income include U.S. Department of Agriculture farm income, expenses, and employment statistics from the Census of Agriculture.

The major presentational changes for the local area personal income statistics include the split of the former Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon Census Area in Alaska into the Hoonah-Angoon Census Area and Skagway Municipality and the addition of charts and graphs to BEA Regional Facts (BEARFACTS).

The May Survey of Current Business will contain an article that describes the results of the revisions to local area personal income in detail.

Note about data on the BEA Web site

The complete set of income and employment estimates for 1969-2008 for counties, micropolitan areas, metropolitan areas, and BEA Economic Areas is now available interactively on BEAís Web site. Detailed annual estimates of earnings and employment by industry, components of personal income, personal current transfer receipts, farm gross income and expenses by major category, and inflows and outflows of commutersí earnings for each of the geographic regions are available. These estimates are the only detailed, broadly inclusive, annual measure of economic activity available for counties. Go to www.bea.gov/regional/reis/ to access these estimates.

BEA Regional Facts (BEARFACTS), a narrative summary of personal income, per capita personal income, and components of income for metropolitan areas and counties, is available on BEAís Web site. Go to www.bea.gov/regional/bearfacts/ to access these summaries.

Data on personal income and per capita personal income for BEA regions, states, and metropolitan areas, as well as data for counties, will be presented in the May issue of the Survey of Current Business, the monthly journal of the Bureau of Economic Analysis. See the end of this release for information on obtaining copies of the Survey of Current Business on BEAís Web site. For further information, call (202) 606-5360.


Personal income is the income received by all persons from all sources. Personal income is the sum of net earnings by place of residence, rental income of persons, personal dividend income, personal interest income, and personal current transfer receipts. Net earnings is earnings by place of work (the sum of wage and salary disbursements, supplements to wages and salaries, and proprietorsí income) less contributions for government social insurance, plus an adjustment to convert earnings by place of work to a place-of-residence basis. Personal income is measured before the deduction of personal income taxes and other personal taxes and is reported in current dollars (no adjustment is made for price changes).

The estimate of personal income in the United States is derived as the sum of the county estimates; it differs slightly from the estimate of personal income in the national income and product accounts (NIPAs) because of differences in coverage, in the methodologies used to prepare the estimates, and in the timing of the availability of source data.

Per capita personal income is calculated as the personal income of residents of a given area divided by the resident population of the area. In computing per capita personal income, BEA uses the Census Bureauís annual midyear population estimates.

The metropolitan area definitions used by BEA for its entire series of personal income estimates are the county-based definitions developed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for federal statistical purposes and last updated in December 2009. OMBís general concept of a metropolitan area is that of a geographic area consisting of a large population nucleus together with adjacent communities having a high degree of economic and social integration with the nucleus. Detailed personal income estimates for metropolitan statistical areas, micropolitan statistical areas, metropolitan divisions, and combined statistical areas are available on the BEA Web site at www.bea.gov.

BEA's national, international, regional, and industry estimates; the Survey of Current Business; and BEA news releases are available without charge on BEA's Web site at www.bea.gov. By visiting the site, you can also subscribe to receive free e-mail summaries of BEA releases and announcements.