Chelan-Douglas Trends e-Newsletter


Policy makers and business leaders need to able to gauge the health and success of a city, county, state or region. There are different tools to use for this analysis. One of the common tools to help gauge the general health of the economy is to look at per capita personal income (PCPI). PCPI is found by taking the total annual income in Chelan and Douglas Counties and dividing by the total population, including every man, woman, and child.

Personal income results from three types of flows, listed in order of importance: wages & salaries, investments and federal transfer payments. The data are available at the combined county level as well as for the individual counties.

PCPI does not capture income distribution, but gives a broad average that is very useful for measuring economic health. Combining a look at PCPI with a look at which industries produce the top wages in an area can help policy makers and business leaders decide on such things as future locations for businesses and allocation of taxes. Like most economic indicators it is difficult to gather a complete picture, for instance, a look at top wage employing sectors does not take into account income gained from rent or investments. But, overall these indicators can provide a good base of data from which to make decisions.

Since the onset of the Great Depression in 2008, per capita personal income has increased in the Chelan and Douglas Counties combined by 26%, which occurred at a quicker rate than Washington State at 22%. There is a difference between the two counties. As of 2016, the Per Capita Personal Income in Chelan County was $47,428, just over $10,000 more than Douglas County at $36,951. As of 2016, per capita personal income in Chelan and Douglas Counties combined is still below the state average of $54,579.

According to Don Meseck, Regional Labor Economist with the Washington State Employment Security Department, the "percentage of personal income derived from wages is dropping while the total wages from transfer payments has risen over the last 30 years."

The changes in the mix of personal income reflect, in part, the effects of the Great Recession on the local economy. Federal safety net programs, such as food stamps and unemployment insurance, climbed in the aftermath of that event. Meanwhile, the passage of the Affordable Care Act meant that Medicaid, a joint federal and state program, rapidly increased. As the repercussions of the major economic downward slowly fade, it will be critical to the area's economy to share in wage growth, taken up in the next article.

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