Income grew 1 percent in the state compared with the final three months of 2013, according to figures released on Tuesday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Pennsylvania's income gains were higher than the 0.8 percent growth nationally. Meanwhile, inflation was flat at 0.3 percent.
The figures echoed favorable May jobs numbers and offered a hopeful sign for the state's economy, said Mark Price, an economist with Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg.
“This is a good signal that we could be finally turning the corner and see in 2014 some actual wage growth above and beyond inflation,” Price said.
It was the fourth straight quarter of income growth in Pennsylvania and the strongest period since the second quarter of last year.
Personal income includes earnings from wages, dividends, interest, rent, insurance settlements and government social benefits.
Half of the income growth in Pennsylvania came from boosts in wages, mostly from workers in the private sector as government salaries in Pennsylvania stayed flat. Transfer receipts — such as insurance settlements and government benefits — accounted for 40 percent, and the balance came from interest, dividends and rent.
Construction earnings grew 3.33 percentage points in the first quarter. That was more than any other industry except mining, which rose 5.11 percentage points, and matched good performance of construction employment over the past year, Price said. He expected that trend to continue as funding kicks in from Act 89, the $2.3 billion transportation bill passed last year. Still, 1 percent income growth is modest, and some boost was expected because employers often roll out cost-of-living adjustments at the beginning of the year, said Frank Gamrat, an economist with the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy.
“I would not get my hopes up,” he said.
Meanwhile, a survey of Pennsylvania employers showed hiring picked up in May, as the state added 24,700 nonfarm jobs.
Construction companies, business services, schools, health care and the leisure and hospitality sectors led the gains as statewide jobs climbed to 5.79 million last month, the highest since September 2008 and a 1.1 percent increase from a year ago, the state Department of Labor & Industry reported on Friday.
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