Analyzing how personal income impacts the economy
Personal income data offer clues to Americans’ financial health and future consumer spending
by Kristen Stephenson
Last year, GPEC launched the Economic Monitor, a comprehensive web tool designed to provide timely, actionable insights into the state of the economy. Through an exploration of key economic indicators, the Economic Monitor offers a concise picture of health at both national and regional levels.
Each month, I’m diving into one of the indicators from the Monitor to share in greater detail what the metric measures are, why it matters to the economy and what the current numbers tell us. This month we’re going to look at personal income and how it impacts other segments of the economy.
What does personal income measure?
Personal income measures how much money an individual makes from wages and salaries, social security and other government benefits, dividends and interest, and business ownership. This data is tracked by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).
Personal income is measured in both current dollars and real dollars, with the difference being that real personal income accounts for inflation and regional price parities – BEA’s measurement to reflect price differences between places. Two primary measures we look at are total personal income, which is the sum of all personal income in the area being measured, and per capita personal income, which divides the total personal income by the area’s population to calculate the income per person.
Why does personal income matter?
Personal income statistics offer clues to Americans’ financial health and future consumer spending. Data at the state and regional levels allow us to benchmark ourselves against the U.S. and other states to see how our residents are fairing compared to other markets. Real personal income is specifically important to measure as it shows how incomes are keeping up with inflation.
What do the current numbers say?
As of 2022, the most recent full year released, Greater Phoenix saw an increase in per capita personal income when looking at current dollars. However, due to high inflation, real per capita personal income declined from 2021 to 2022, from $55,269 to $51,523. This has put it at about the same level as seen in 2020. The same held true for Arizona and the U.S., both of which saw real personal income decline from 2021 to 2022, declining by 6.0% and 4.6% respectively.
Total real personal income followed the same pattern, with Greater Phoenix declining from $273 billion to $258 billion, or 5.4%. Arizona declined from $390 billion to $371 billion, or 4.8% over the same period. The U.S. saw a slightly smaller decline of 4.2%, decreasing from $19.6 trillion to $18.8 trillion. Only five states experienced real personal income growth from 2021 to 2022.
Numbers have rebounded for 2023. While Greater Phoenix numbers as well as inflation adjusted numbers for Arizona and the U.S. will not be available until later this year, Arizona and the U.S. have shown increased personal income that appears to be outpacing inflation through the third quarter 2023. Total personal income in current dollars in the U.S. has increased by $1 trillion to $23 trillion since Q3 2022; Arizona has increased personal income by $27.1 billion to $461.4 billion during the same timeframe. Greater Phoenix will likely follow the same progression.
To monitor personal income in real time along with me, mapped alongside 13 other key indicators of health, visit gpec.org/monitor. We hope you find the Monitor a valuable tool in understanding the ever-changing economic landscape.