Paychecks Stable For Metro Area

Incomes See Small Increase

Posted: November 27, 2012

HARRISONBURG — Per capita personal income for the Harrisonburg area increased last year, but figures released Monday indicate the local economy continues to slog through a tepid recovery, matching the nationwide trend.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis’ annual estimates show personal income rose in all 366 metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S. in 2011.

Last year marks the first time that’s occurred since 2007, just before recession gripped the nation and the financial collapse of 2008.

In the Harrisonburg metro area, which includes Rockingham County, 2011 was the second straight year of growth.

Per capita income for the area last year was $31,324, up from $30,123 in 2010 and $29,518 in 2009, according to the data. The figures are not adjusted for inflation.

The year-over-year increase from 2010 to 2011 was 4 percent.

“What they’re showing is that we recovered from the recession at a slow rate,” said William Wood, an economics professor at James Madison University. “And a lot of people don’t know, it doesn’t feel like it, but the recession actually ended in 2009. That means not that prosperity returned, but … the economy then stopped going down.”

The Bureau of Economic Analysis’ study found total personal income in the Harrisonburg area topped $3.96 billion last year, spread out among a population of 126,562. Harrisonburg ranked 323 out of the 366 metro areas.

Wood said the data demonstrate the relative stability of the local economy.

Harrisonburg and Rockingham County were shielded from the worst of the recession due to the local health care industry and education.

“We’ve always been a little more stable than the national economy,” he said. “Our peaks and our valleys have not been as pronounced.”

This dynamic also was reflected in the unemployment rate, which stayed well below the national average for the past several years along with the statewide rate.

In September, the most recent month for which numbers are available, unemployment in the Harrisonburg metro area stood at 5.6 percent, a drop of 0.3 percent from the month before.

October unemployment in Virginia was 5.7 percent, compared to 7.9 percent for the U.S. Local unemployment figures for October are set to be released Wednesday by the Virginia Employment Commission.

Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or jhunt@dnronline.com