Spending is a traditional way to gauge the economy's health, but don't forget the flip side – income. BEA's personal income statistics tell a lot about how U.S. workers and businesses are faring.
Although BEA doesn't do forecasts itself, our income statistics are valued by people looking for clues to help them anticipate future consumer spending or to predict inflation. Estimates of personal income and corporate profits are closely followed by businesspeople, Wall Street investors, policymakers, and the public.
State and local personal income numbers also help the United States allocate hundreds of billions in federal funds to state and local governments each year. BEA's estimates of wages and salaries are used in projecting federal budgets and Social Security trust fund balances. BEA's measures of noncash income, such as employers' contributions to workers' pension plans and health coverage, are relied on for a more complete picture of labor costs. And personal income statistics help capture the interplay between Americans' incomes, spending, and saving.
Income statistics help answer questions such as:
- Are workers bringing home more pay these days?
- How much income are U.S. residents saving vs. spending?
- Which industries are seeing a rise in corporate profits?
What types of Income & Saving data does BEA produce?
BEA's personal income statistics show the income that U.S. residents get from paychecks, employer-provided supplements such as insurance, business ownership, rental property, Social Security and other government benefits, interest, and dividends. (Personal income doesn't include capital gains from changes in stock prices, however.)
Released monthly in the Personal Income and Outlays release.
Statistics for each state (and the District of Columbia) show the combined personal incomes of the residents, including those whose work takes place beyond the state's borders. The data include income by industry and how much income comes from wages, proprietors' income, dividends, interest, rents, and government benefits.
These statistics help assess and compare the economic well-being of state residents. Per capita personal income – an area's personal income divided by its population – can be used to compare incomes from one state to another or to the nation overall.
Quarterly and annual releases
Local area statistics show the combined income of people living in an area, including those residents whose work is outside the area, as well as per capita income. The statistics are broken down by industry and show the income that people get from wages, proprietors' income, dividends, interest, rents, and government benefits.
Data are available for counties, metropolitan statistical areas, micropolitan statistical areas, the combined nonmetropolitan areas of a state, and more. See Regional Data Table Availability for more information on the types of areas covered.
Released annually in the Local Area Personal Income release
These data are produced to better compare the buying power of personal incomes across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, or from one metropolitan statistical area to another.
Real personal income statistics consist of data that have been adjusted using BEA's regional price parities to reflect price differences between places – for example, consumers pay higher prices on average in New York than in Mississippi – as well as inflation nationwide.
The income that's left after people pay their taxes is disposable personal income, also known as after-tax income. It's the amount that U.S. residents are able to spend, save, or invest. This number is important not just to individuals' well-being but also to the whole economy.
Found in the monthly Personal Income and Outlays release. Quarterly figures are contained in the GDP release.
The percentage of people's disposable income that they save instead of spending is the personal saving rate. It's calculated as the amount of income left after people spend money and pay taxes.
The U.S. saving rate is watched to learn about Americans' financial health and to help predict consumer behavior and economic growth.
Part of the monthly Personal Income and Outlays release. Quarterly figures are contained in the GDP release.
This summary of the financial health of corporate America is closely watched as a U.S. economic indicator. The statistics show U.S. corporations' combined earnings from current production, with breakdowns by type of industry.
For the first three quarters of each calendar year, preliminary corporate profit data are released with the second estimate of GDP. Updated corporate profit estimates are released with the third estimate of GDP. For the fourth quarter of each year, corporate profit estimates are released once, with the third estimate of GDP.
GDI is an alternative way of measuring the nation's economy, by counting the incomes earned and costs incurred in production. In theory, GDI should equal gross domestic product, but the different source data yield different results. The difference between the two measures is known as the "statistical discrepancy." BEA considers GDP more reliable because it's based on timelier, more expansive data.
Included with quarterly GDP estimates, but not available with each quarter's first (advance) estimate.
- NIPA Handbook: Chapters 1-4 and 10-13.
- Quick Guide: Personal Income and Outlays Releases
- Video: What is Personal Income?
- Video: What is the Personal Saving Rate?
- State Personal Income and Employment: Concepts, Data Sources, and Statistical Methods
- BEA Regional Income and Product Account Estimates Used to Distribute $423.1B in Federal Funds, FY2017
- MSAs and Other Statistical Area Definitions
See BEA's Regional Price Parities learning page for more about comparing prices and calculating real personal income for states and metro areas.
For the first three quarters of each calendar year, preliminary GDI is released with the second estimate of quarterly GDP, and an updated GDI is released with the third estimate of GDP. For the fourth quarter of each year, GDI isn't released until the third estimate of GDP.