last in U.S.
A federal report says itFrom staff and wire reports
was up only 2.1% in 1998
Hawaii had the slowest personal income growth in the nation last year, according to a federal report.
The Commerce Department said today that Hawaii's per capita income for 1998 was $26,137, the 17th highest in the nation. But the figure was only 2.1 percent higher than the state's 1997's average, putting Hawaii's rate of growth behind all other states and the District of Columbia. The department cited Hawaii's stagnant tourism industry, which has been hurt by the Asian economic crisis.
Still, the department noted, income growth outpaced the inflation rate in Hawaii, as it did in all other states. The state's Consumer Price Index for 1998 actually fell slightly.
Nationally, average income for America's 270.3 million people last year was $26,412, up 4.4 percent from 1997, the department said. The figures include not only wages and salaries, but other sources of income such as investment earnings and government benefits. That per capita income growth was actually a bit slower than the 4.7 percent increase in 1997.
"It translates directly into buying power," said Steve Cochrane, an economist at Regional Financial Associates in West Chester, Pa. "We've seen really strong consumer spending over the last year . . . and these figures tell us why: There's money out there to spend."
The U.S. inflation rate -- as measured by the government's price index for personal consumption expenditures -- declined from 2 percent in 1997 to 0.8 percent last year. Factoring that in, Americans' buying power -- per capita income growth after inflation -- jumped 3.6 percent in 1998 compared with 2.7 percent in 1997. By state, per capita incomes in 1998 ranged from $37,598 in Connecticut to $18,958 in Mississippi.
North Dakota had the highest income growth rate, at 7.8 percent, thanks to government relief payments to farmers hurt by falling global commodity prices.