The Bangor metropolitan area and Aroostook County led the state for growth in personal income per person from 2012 to 2013, but that doesn’t necessarily mean people have more money in their pockets than one year prior.

The 2013 figures for all counties and metropolitan areas in the country shows the the total personal earnings (and transfer payments like Social Security), divided by an area’s total population. The dollar amounts are not adjusted for inflation.

It’s important to note the two components that make up the final number: total personal income / population. That is, a shrinking population can cause the per-capita personal income measure to rise just as an actual increase in total personal income can.

Below is a look at three things: personal income growth rates, the 2013 totals for each county and metro area and whether the area in question lost or gained population over that time.

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The figure gives a general sense of the purchasing power in units we can understand: people, like you and me. As we know, not all income is handed to the state and then divvied up evenly.

But, if it were and you lived in the Bangor area, you and every adult you know would have taken in about $36,713 last year — in the Portland area, the amount’s about $10,000 higher.

There’s a lot there, but it’s one measure of buying power in one area of the state versus another.

The same goes for the counties, where Aroostook had the fastest growth in personal income in the last year but Cumberland retained the highest per capita figure.

Generally, some good economic news can be found at the top and to the right in the charts above. Of course, there are some caveats.

Bumper crops or storms in an area with lots of farmland can skew the figures, as can areas with large population shifts. Also, areas that get a boost from the temporary presence of economic activity like construction projects can skew the actual economic well-being of an area’s permanent residents.


Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.