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Arkansas' ranking in per capita personal income has been from 41st to 43rd over the past five years, up significantly from 48th or 49th where it has languished for decades, primarily driven by Benton County, according to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Benton County's income per capita for 2016 stood at $76,554, or 155.5 percent of of the national average, placing it 35th among the country's more than 3,100 counties and in the upper 98.9 percent of all counties, according to the data released earlier this month.

In Arkansas, the next closest counties in 2016 were second-ranked Pulaski with $47,834 and third place Union with $44,731. Lincoln County ranked the lowest in the state at 75th, with per capita income of $25,132 for the period.

Nationally personal income was up in 2,285 counties, fell in 795 and was unchanged in 33. In metropolitan areas, personal income was up 2.5 percent for 2016 and increased 1 percent in nonmetropolitan areas. Total personal income by county was as low as $4.4 million for Loving County, Texas, to as high as $563.9 billion in Los Angeles County, Calif.

Greg Kaza, the executive director of the Arkansas Policy Foundation, said Arkansas' consistent shift upward in per capita personal income shows that the state is distancing itself from its dismal rankings of decades past. He said personal income and employment statistics are broad indicators of economic health that help raise a state or region's profile, not only nationally but globally.

The Arkansas Policy Foundation is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that analyzes the impact of public policy on the state and makes recommendations. The foundation focuses on tax policy and changes in education.

Nationally per capita income stood at $49,246 for 2016, and for Arkansas it was $39,722, for a ranking of 43rd among states. Across the nation, per capita income by county ranged from as low as $16,267 in Wheeler County, Ga., to $199,635 in Teton County, Wyo.

Kaza said Arkansas's rise in the standings was greatly helped by high levels of personal income in Benton County, noting that over the past five years, the county pulled the entire state up to historic levels.

Personal income is income received by, or on the behalf of, all persons from all sources, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Mervin Jabaraj, interim director of business and economic research at the Sam Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville said it's hard to quantify the disparity between Benton County's per capita income and the rest of the state but the high number for Benton County comes from a mix of low unemployment, high-paying jobs and the clustering of individuals of high net worth.

"These numbers reflect more than just salary," Jabaraj explained.

From 2009 to 2016, Benton County's per capita income rose 61 percent, from $48,156 to $76,554. In comparison, Pulaski County, its closest rival, saw its per capita income rise from $41,185 in 2009 to $47,834 in 2016, a 16 percent increase. Lincoln County had a per capita income of $20,819 in 2009 and gained nearly 21 percent to $25,132 in 2016.

Arkansas saw its per capita income grow from $31,372 in 2009 to $39,722 in 2016, an increase of nearly 27 percent.

Mike Harvey, chief operations officer of the Northwest Arkansas Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes the region, said the combination of Benton County being the home of Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., its thousands of suppliers, and other large companies, like Lowell-based J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. helps create a center of demand for high-playing jobs and all the wealth generating sectors that support them -- including retail, entertainment and home construction -- that not only affects the county but the surrounding area as well.

He said the combination makes the area's success unique and hard to duplicate.

"We're one of a kind," he said.

Business on 11/28/2017

Print Headline: County buoys state income rankings

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