Incomes lagging in Berkshires

Saturday August 13, 2011

PITTSFIELD -- Personal income in Berkshire County is at the same level it was in 2008, and workers’ earnings actually have dropped when inflation is factored in, according to federal Bureau of Economic Analysis statistics.

"People now have about the same amount of money as they had in 2008, but it buys fewer goods and services," said Paul Bachman, the director of research for the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Berkshire County’s personal income rose 1.4 percent last year, but it was the smallest increase when compared with other areas in Massachusetts.

While that increase made up for a 1.3 percent decline in 2009, it remains at pre-recession levels. When adjusted for inflation, incomes have dropped since 2008, according to Bachman.

Elsewhere in the state, income growth was stronger in 2010. It ranged from an increase of 2 percent on Cape Cod to 3.4 percent in the Worcester area. In the U.S., personal income increased an average of 3 percent.

Berkshire County’s greatest growth in personal income came in the form of government subsidies, such as Medicare, Social Security and unemployment compensation. Government subsidies increased by $65 million.

Overall, net earnings -- which include the wages, salaries and benefits of workers in the county -- grew by just $14 million last year.

The county was the only area in the state where the increase in subsidies was higher than the rise in net earnings.

"What it means is that growth in personal income in Pittsfield is more dependent on government subsidies and payments," Bachman said. "That means that in the private sector income growth is still quite weak in Pittsfield."

The county’s total personal income was $5.616 billion in 2010 -- up from $5.53 billion in 2009, according to the federal government. It was $5.6 billion in 2008, according to the BEA.

The base of the economy in the Pittsfield area is more reliant on manufacturing, where growth is hampered by the high electricity rates in Western Massachusetts, Bachman said.

The data were released this week by the federal government.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:,
or (413) 496-6224.

Less money to go around ...

Data released this week by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis statistics show that personal income rose in 2010 by Š

3.4 percent in the Worcester area

3.1 percent in the Boston area.

2.7 percent in the areas of New Bedford and Fall River

2.2 percent in the Springfield area.

2 percent on Cape Cod.

1.4 percent in Berkshire County.


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