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Economy in Brief

State Personal Income in Q1 2020
by Charles Steindel  June 23, 2020

The first quarter personal income data reflected the initial impact of the pandemic. Two travel and tourism-heavy states, Hawaii and Nevada, were quite weak, with annual growth rates of -0.1 percent (Hawaii) and 1.0 percent (Nevada). New York, which shut down aggressively in March, was also low, at 0.7 percent. Curiously, New Jersey, whose pandemic experience has been quite comparable to New York's, was notably stronger, with a 1.8 percent gain—New York was held down relative to New Jersey by shutdown-related losses of earnings in construction, trade, and leisure and hospitality sectors. Reflecting the closure of auto plants, Michigan was the worst performing state in the nation, with its aggregate income falling at a 0.3 percent rate. States in the South and West, which had been growing rapidly and were slow to shut down, saw much stronger figures, led by New Mexico's 4.9 percent rate of growth. California and Washington, the two Western states that closed early on, both saw income grow at or above the national pace. Somewhat surprisingly, small energy-intensive states (West Virginia. Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Alaska) did not see remarkably slow growth in the first quarter; Alaska's 1.3 percent mark was the smallest of the group, while Wyoming was up at a 2.8 percent annual rate.

Transfers were a major support to incomes in the first quarter throughout the nation, with the start of the upsurge in unemployment benefits in March likely an important element. Earnings (wages, benefits, and proprietors' income) were dreadful, with many states seeing declines—the rate of decline was more than 3 percent in Nevada, Hawaii, and Michigan. On the other side, both Texas and Utah saw earnings grow at a 2.3 percent rate, which ordinarily would have been regarded as a meager showing.

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