According to a report the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released last week, personal income increased in Alabama by about 2.2 percent in the first quarter of the year compared to the same quarter last year, due to improvements in certain sectors such as construction and real estate. Some experts say the small year-over-year income growth signals slow but definite economic improvement for the state.
The report shows personal income in Alabama totaled about $173.8 million in the first quarter, an increase from about $170 million in the first quarter of last year. Income in the first quarter would have been higher were it not for unique circumstances, such as the expiration of the payroll tax holiday, resulting in an increase in payroll deductions for Social Security at the end of last year, the report states.
The report also shows Alabama's personal income increase was slightly lower than the national average, which increased 2.76 percent for the first quarter of the year compared to the same quarter last year.
"That Alabama income has not increased as much as the U.S. average is not great, but being behind by only half a percentage point is still a good sign," said Robert Robicheaux, chairman of the department of marketing, industrial distribution and economics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Ahmad Ijaz, director of economic forecasting for the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama, said the state's rising income was a sign of job growth and economic improvement.
"The increase is going to be because we are adding some jobs," Ijaz said. "But we're growing at a very slow pace ... because most of the jobs being added are relatively low-wage jobs like jobs in the food-service industry and part-time jobs."
Ijaz noted, however, that Alabama is hardly alone in low-wage job growth.
"It's just about the whole country ... most of the jobs being added are in the low-wage sectors," Ijaz said. "It's nothing unique to Alabama."
The report shows there were some earnings improvements during the first quarter for several higher-paying industries, such as real estate, construction and manufacturing.
"Auto sales have improved and the housing industry has shown some sense of recovery," Robicheaux said.
Everett King of ERA King Real Estate in Anniston said his business saw improvement during the first quarter of the year.
"We are up about 19 percent so far this year over last year, which is pretty good since we get paid by commission," King said.
King contributed the income increase to rising home sales prices and decreases in foreclosures in the first quarter.
"It goes back to foreclosures going away, allowing depressed prices to rise ... there's nothing artificial holding them down," King said.
Ijaz agreed with Robicheaux that Alabama's auto industry was doing well.
"Manufacturing is on pretty solid footing with automobile manufacturing," he said.
The American Honda Motor Company reported Tuesday record June sales of light trucks, which included several vehicle produced exclusively at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in Lincoln.
Tony Waddell, owner of Waddell Construction Company in Heflin, said his business did better at the beginning of the year compared to the same time last year.
"There has been an increase in the first quarter of the year compared to the first quarter last year — it's not much, but it's a steady increase," Waddell said.
Waddell said construction companies are doing a combination of home refurbishing jobs and new construction to improve revenue.
"The economy is improving and people are getting more comfortable and deciding to do a few things," he said.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.
Personal Income in Alabama:
- 2013 First Quarter: $173.8 million
- 2012 First Quarter: $170 million
- Increase of 2.2 percent