Maine had the smallest rate of growth in real personal income among 49 states from 2011 to 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Maine showed growth of 0.3 percent in that period, to $38,516 in real per capita personal income.

That measure, released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis on a state-by-state basis for the first time, accounts for regional differences in prices paid by consumers for goods and services. The data is adjusted for inflation.

“The data would basically confirm a lot of Maine workers’ experience over this time period. Maine saw a relatively fast increase in the cost of living, especially in the goods people buy,” said Joel Johnson, a policy analyst at the Maine Center for Economic Policy.

Johnson said Maine suffered from a surge in rents and the price of housing, as well as oil prices that rose during the recession and added to the cost of goods dependent on fuel consumption, such as food shipments.

The 0.3 percent gain in Maine was the lowest growth rate among states showing improvements in income. Only South Dakota showed a decline in real personal income, with a drop of 1.2 percent. North Dakota showed the biggest increase, 15.1 percent.

Real personal income across all regions rose by 1.5 percent in 2012, the bureau said. Real personal income not adjusted for regional differences or other variables shows an increase of 3.4 percent from 2011 to 2012 across the country.

The study is narrow because it looks only at that two-year period, economists said.

“That was a year when our economy was barely growing,” said Charles Colgan, professor of public policy and management at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service. “If you looked at 2012 to 2013, Maine would show an improvement. I suspect we’d still be toward the bottom, but not as far down.”

Colgan said Maine’s slim growth in that period reflected the lack of job growth and lack of business growth. The only increase in income likely came from government-related payments such as Social Security and unemployment benefits, he said.

Johnson, with the Maine Center for Economic Policy, said that over a longer period, Maine fared better.

From 2008 through 2012, Maine ranked 20th in the nation, with a growth rate of 2.6 percent in real per capita personal income, Johnson said.

In 2009, for example, Maine ranked second in real per capita personal income growth. Then, as other states recovered from the recession faster, Maine’s ranking slipped, Johnson said.

“It was an incredibly volatile period in the economy. Different states rebounded out of the recession at different rates,” he said.

Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

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