BANGOR — Maine had the nation’s slowest rate of income growth last year, a sign that the state is recovering more slowly than the rest of the country from the economic downturn.

Maine’s personal income grew 3.4 percent in 2011, well off the national average of 5.1 percent, according to figures released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. North Dakota had the highest growth rate, at 8.1 percent.

Maine typically takes longer than most states to recover from economic slowdowns, said Charles Colgan, an economist at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service. In his annual economic outlook in January, Colgan said he doesn’t see Maine fully recovering from the recession, which ran from December 2007 to June 2009, for five more years.

Colgan told the Bangor Daily News that Maine’s personal income growth will probably be better this year than last.

“Both the national growth rate and Maine growth rate in the fourth quarter (of 2011) picked up a bit,” he said. “There’s some possibility that the outlook (for 2012 and beyond) is more promising than 2011.”

Personal income is the total income received by all residents from all sources. For 2011, personal income in Maine totaled $50.4 billion, according to the BEA.

The top five states for income growth in 2011 were North Dakota, Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

The bottom five were Maine, Alabama, Mississippi, Nevada and Alaska.

University of Maine economist Todd Gabe said he and two other researchers who are studying the recession’s effect on various occupations have found “substantial structural changes in the economy” following the recession, which helps explain why some geographic regions are doing better than others.

Areas that have been hurt include agriculture, construction, low-end manufacturing, fishing and forestry, which traditionally have been some of Maine’s strengths. Sectors that are on the rise include computer and mathematical occupations, business, financial and professional services careers and other high-tech jobs, Gabe said.

“We’ve known for a long time that we’re way behind in the high-tech occupations,” he said. “Now we’re finding that the type of occupational structure has contributed to less economic prosperity in Maine. That’s been happening for a long time, but more recently, that effect has been exacerbated through the recession.”

On a per capita basis, Maine’s personal income growth of 3.3 percent was 49th in the country last year, ahead of only Alaska. Maine’s per capita income was $37,973 for the year, up from $36,763, according to bureau statistics.