FORT WAYNE — Per capita personal income in northeast Indiana’s 11 counties continues to grow at a faster rate over recent years, but growth in 2018 lags behind the nation.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released the initial 2018 per capita income numbers. Northeast Indiana grew at 4.73% compared to the nation’s rate of 4.94% from 2017 to 2018. The Northeast Indiana growth rate represents nearly 40% increase over the 3.38% growth in 2017. The 2018 growth equates to 82.2% of the national average.

The percent increase led to more than $35 billion of total personal income circulated in the region’s 11 counties in 2018. That was an increase of nearly $1.8 billion of total personal income compared to 2017, resulting in a $2,021 increase in per capita personal income.

The region’s average per capita personal income was $44,773 in 2018, up from $42,752 in 2017.

In 2018, Steuben County experienced the most growth in Northeast Indiana at 7.53%, rising to $43,231. Noble County posted the next-best increase of 4.63% to $39,798; DeKalb County increased 4.4% to $44,069. LaGrange County had the weakest growth in the region, increasing only 2.36% to $42,146.

Per capita personal income is calculated as the total personal income of the residents of a geographic area divided by the total number of residents.

If you’re looking at the $45,000 average for the region and wishing that was your annual wage, just keep in mind the figure is not a measure of current wages being earned by workers.

While the metric can show a historical trend of income increase across the entire population, it’s not an accurate measure to represent incomes being earned by people currently in the workforce. Since it’s a straight average of total income, the figure can be skewed upward by particularly large incomes, while also being dragged down by low-income workers or people not in the workforce such as seniors and children.

Median, or midpoint, incomes for workers is significantly lower than the per-capita rate in all four counties. Those rates are $34,287 in LaGrange County, $30,503 in Noble County, $30,492 in DeKalb County and $30,120 in Steuben County, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Worker incomes in the four-county area also have a significant gender disparity. Among full time workers, men earn a median wage around $47,000, while the median earnings for women is approximately $33,000 per year.

Still, an increasing per-capita income shows overall growth in earnings among residents and is a positive economic signal.

Increasing per capita income annually against the national average is one of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s three major goals to grow the regional economy and compete in the global marketplace. The Regional Partnership has established a goal to increase Northeast Indiana’s per capita income to 90% of the national average by the year 2030.

Regional economic developers in Northeast Indiana use the metric as an economic indicator because it provides a historical regional trend that displays a consistent and comprehensive look at personal income with a national benchmark. In addition to wages, per capita personal income captures investments, entitlements like Social Security and other forms of income.

“Northeast Indiana’s 2018 PCPI growth rate, accelerating well above the 2017 rate, is clearly good news. Several counties in the region showed very strong gains above national rates. We are growing faster than Indiana’s overall rate and yet, have fallen short of national trends. The future of our region depends on our success in attracting and retaining a skilled workforce to meet the needs of regional employers, and raising regional prosperity against national trends is a key factor. Working together as a region, we must remain focused on our goals and strive to increase business investment in our 11-county region,” said John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.

Isaac Lee, executive director of Steuben County Economic Development Corporation, attributed his county’s region-best increase to a number of factors including new economic development projects in Steuben County. There were 24 projects in 2018 with higher than average wages.

“In Steuben County, we’ve been focused on growing wages and up-skilling the county’s workforce. It’s important for our county to continue to increase per capita personal income and attract and retain the workforce needed to grow our region’s economy and prosperity,” said Lee.

Rachel Blakeman, director of Community Research Institute at Purdue University Fort Wayne, said year-over-year regional per capita income growth showed impressive gains in both dollars and percentages.

“Northeast Indiana’s economic performance in 2018 was strong. However, strong economic performance was not unique to northeast Indiana. National incomes rose at a slightly faster rate, and the disparity between the actual dollars PCPI represents nationally and regionally limits our ability to attract the high-skill talent we need most,” said Blakeman.

The goals of the Regional Partnership’s Vision 2030 initiative align directly with the State of Indiana’s Office of Career Connections and Talent.

In June, more than 200 multi-sector partners from 11 counties across Northeast Indiana banded together and collectively committed to working across geographic lines to grow the population, increase educational attainment and raise household income as Indiana’s first designated 21st Century Talent Region.

“Northeast Indiana remains a leader in cultivating 21st Century talent, aligning regional efforts to reach these goals including raising Northeast Indiana’s per capita personal income to 90% against the national average by 2030. By aligning regional efforts through the 21st Century Talent Regions, Northeast Indiana is taking the necessary steps to be successful in achieving its goals,” said Indiana’s Office of Career Connections and Talent Secretary Blair Milo.

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