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Economist: Yes, you were poorer in San Diego last year

12 July 2010 No Comment

By Helen Kaiao Chang

See original story on SDNN

Friday, September 25, 2009

It’s official. You were poorer last year than the previous year. But you’re still richer than just about everyone else in the nation.

“You” being an average San Diegan, earning what is known in economic terms as “per capita personal income.”

The poorer state of your wallet is because of the general economic slowdown, said Kelly Cunningham, economist at the National University System Institute for Policy Research, who just released a study on the topic.

“When you look at earnings, we saw a real decline,” said Cunningham by phone. “If you take the per capita measurement, it showed on average, San Diegans’ income retracted.”

Specifically, you made $45,488 in 2008 – or 0.04 percent less than what you made of $46,142 in 2007, after adjusted for inflation.

That may not seem like much difference, but it paints a larger picture of major change in the region.
“In normal times, you’re going to grow — with greater population growth and more jobs and more people earning money,” he said. “So it is significant that not only did we not grow (in 2008), but we actually had a decline. That is a major change in normal activity.”

If you worked in the military, manufacturing and high tech sectors, you probably saw more money come in last year. If you were in the retail, finance or real estate industries, you most likely made less.

Government and military jobs provided the lion’s share of income, or about 24 percent of total income in the county in 2008. Of this, military payrolls made up nearly 40 percent, a major increase in recent years due to the Iran and Afghanistan wars.

“That’s been San Diego’s strength historically,” said Cunningham. “It’s one of the sectors helping San Diego at this time.”

You also probably made more money if you were part of the “knowledge economy,” including high tech, scientific, and professional services. These specialized jobs comprise engineering, computers, biotech, telecom and other technical services.

This sector saw a 48 percent income increase in 2008 over 2007, and now comprise 13 percent of the region’s jobs. While segments of this sector has struggled in 2009, it will continue to power the economy. “Those are higher paying jobs,” said Cunningham.

Manufacturing jobs are also paying more. Although the actual number of jobs has declined as companies leave San Diego, those who stay are paying more. “It is more evidence that our region’s manufacturing base continues to become more skill- and technology-focused, and less labor intensive,” said Cunningham.

If you work in information, health care, education, food or transportation industries, you probably also made more in 2008 than 2007. But this year, you are feeling the pinch.

You were also hurting last year if you worked in the retail, finance or real estate industries. These sectors declined by more than 10 percent in the last two years.

Despite these declines, you’re still doing better than the rest of the nation. In 2008 after adjustment for inflation, the average Californian made $42,696 — or 6.5 percent less than you — while the average American made $39,751 – nearly 15 percent less than you, according to Cunningham’s data.

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenChang.

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