Personal income

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Posted on 12/10/2019 by Beverly Kerr

  • Total personal income in the Austin metro grew by 8.5% in 2018, the fastest rate of growth among major metros.
  • Per capita personal income is $58,773 in Austin and, over the last year, per capita personal income grew 5.8%, the 6th fastest rate among major metros.
  • Average wages and salaries per job is $62,752 in 2018, up 4.3% over 2017. Among major metros, Austin ranks 5th for growth over the last year.

Personal income totaled $127.4 billion in the five-county Austin metropolitan area in 2018 according to the latest annual release by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) of local area personal income data. Austin’s total personal income rose 8.5% in 2018. Growth was 9.1% in 2017. Personal income is the broadest measure of local economic activity available,[1] with the exception of gross domestic product by metro.[2]

All of the nation's 384 metropolitan areas saw positive personal income growth in 2018. In aggregate, growth was 5.7% for the metropolitan portion of the U.S., up from 4.9% in 2017. Growth ranged from -1.3% in El Centro, CA to 17.4% in Midland, TX.

Austin’s 8.5% growth in personal income from 2017 to 2018, was the fastest rate of growth among the 50 largest metros. The slowest growth among large metros was 3.2% in Buffalo, NY. Within the Austin metro, growth ranged from 7.0% in Caldwell County to 9.4% in Hays County. Texas’ growth was 6.5% in 2018, unchanged from 2017.

Austin's personal income growth over the last five years is 43.3%, better than all but three of the 50 largest metros and substantially above the 27.0% growth for metropolitan portion of the U.S. In addition to Austin, the other three best performing metros over the last year and the last five years are San Jose, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Austin's robust population and job growth would be expected to drive relatively strong aggregate personal income and earnings growth. Among large metros, Austin is No. 1 for population growth and No. 2 for job growth over the last five years. Therefore, growth in per capita income and in earnings per job would be measures to look to for an indication of relative improvements in Austin’s standard of living.

In 2018, per capita personal income is $58,773 in Austin, 4.0% above that of the metropolitan portion of the U.S. Austin’s per capita personal income has exceeded the metro average for the last seven years. From 1998, until the early-2000s recession, Austin had higher per capita income than the metro average. Among the top 50 metros, Austin ranks 15th for per capita personal income.

Austin’s per capita income growth over the last year was 5.8%, compared to 4.9% for all metros. Austin ranked 6th among large metros. Over the last five years, growth was 24.5%, leading metro U.S. growth of 22.0%, and Austin ranked 11th. Houston’s growth over the last year was 4.9% (ranking 21st) while San Antonio and Dallas saw 4.7% growth in per capita income (ranking 25th and 28th respectively).

Other measures produced by the BEA’s local area personal income estimates include earnings by place of work, a measure comprising earnings of both wage and salary workers and proprietors;[3] compensation of employees, a measure of total compensation to wage and salary workers (i.e., wages and salaries, plus employer contributions for pensions, insurance funds, and government social insurance programs). Wage and salary employment and proprietors employment are available, as are average compensation and earnings per job.

In 2018, Austin's total full- and part-time employment totaled 1,506,528, with 1,093,025 being wage and salary jobs, and 413,503 representing proprietors. Proprietors account for 27% of total jobs in 2018 in Austin, up from 24% ten years ago. For all U.S. metros, proprietors represent 23% of jobs, up from 20% ten years ago.

Relative to other metropolitan areas, Austin has seen strong gains in average earnings per job over the last year. At $66,429 in 2018, earnings per job is up 4.5% over 2017, ranking 6th among major metros. Over the last five years, growth is 18.0%, which ranks 4th among major metros. Average earnings per job for all metros is $64,581, 2.8% lower than in Austin. From 2004 through 2016, earnings were lower in Austin than the average for all metros.

Average compensation of employees (wages and salaries plus supplements to wages and salaries) was $74,896 in Austin in 2018, 2.7% higher than the U.S. metro area average of $72,957. Austin’s average compensation per job was the 17th highest among the top 50 metros. Austin’s average compensation increased 4.0% over the last year (ranking 6th among major metros) and 19.0% over the last five years (ranking 4th).

Austin average wage and salary per job is $62,752 in 2018, up 4.3% over the last year or 20.0% over the last five years. Among major metros, Austin has the 5th strongest growth over both the last year and the last five years. Average wage and salary per job in Austin is currently 5.4% above the metropolitan average and has been higher than the metro average since 2011. In 1999, before the recession, Austin’s wage and salary per job was nearly 12% above the metropolitan average.

In 2018, proprietors’ income represents a larger share of earnings by place of work in Austin (18.2% in 2018) than it does across all U.S. metros (12.6%). Average nonfarm proprietors’ income was $45,003 in Austin in 2018, compared to $36,219 for all metros. Average nonfarm proprietors' income is up by 6.0% in Austin and 2.0% across all metros in 2018. Compared to five years ago, Austin’s average is up 18.4% and all metros are up 2.6%.

Beyond earnings, the other contributors to personal income are personal current transfer receipts[4] and dividends, interest, and rent. Transfer receipts are about 10% of personal income in Austin compared to 16% across all metros. This form of income increased by 3.8% per capita in Austin in 2018 compared to 3.7% across all metros. At $5,666 in 2018, per capita personal current transfer receipts are lower in Austin than in any other major metro area. Dallas and Houston also have relatively low per capita personal current transfer receipts ($6,316 and $6,534 respectively), while San Antonio has $8,082 per capita in 2018. Pittsburgh is the major metro with the highest per capita amount ($11,132) of this type of income.

Dividends, interest, and rent account for about 19% of per capita income in Austin and 21% across all metros in 2018. This factor increased 6.1% in Austin in 2018 (following 0.6% growth in 2017), while it grew by 7.8% across all metros (following 5.6% growth in 2017). Austin’s 6.1% growth in 2018 ranked 45th among major metros and its 19.0% growth over the last five years ranked 48th.

Local Area Personal Income and Employment data for metros and counties on the BEA's website begins in 1969 or 2001, depending on the variable. If you'd like to delve into this data, click here. Easy-to-create exportable maps are also available. Many additional series related to the derivation of personal income are available which have not been treated above. Also, a wealth of industry detail for earnings, compensation, and employment is available. Local area personal income definitions and methodologies are located here.

Note that this data is not adjusted for inflation. Inflation, as measured by the national price index for personal consumption expenditures, was 2.1% in 2018 and has averaged 1.3% annually over the last five years. The BEA will release real personal income data through 2018 in May 2020. That release will also include adjustments for the differences in price levels across geographic areas.

Additional graphs: Major Texas metros compared.

Maps: Illustrating levels & growth for several variables.

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  1. Personal income is the income received by, or on behalf of, all persons from all sources: from participation as laborers in production, from owning a home or unincorporated business, from the ownership of financial assets, and from government and business in the form of transfer receipts. It includes income from domestic sources as well as from the rest of the world. Personal income is the income that is available to persons for consumption expenditures, taxes, interest payments, transfer payments to governments and the rest of the world, or for saving.
  2. Look for the GDP by Metropolitan Area to be covered in the next Central Texas Economy article. This year, GDP by Metro is arriving later than in previous years due to the introduction of county-level data .
  3. Proprietors’ employment consists of the number of sole proprietorships and the number of general partners. Proprietors’ income is the current-production income of sole proprietorships and partnerships and of tax-exempt cooperatives .
  4. Income maintenance benefits; unemployment insurance compensation; and retirement, medical and disability benefits. For U.S. metro areas in 2018, 90% of per capita personal current transfer receipts are made up of retirement, medical and disability benefits .

Related Categories: Central Texas Economy in Perspective