The amount of personal income in Maine counties that comes from government sources continued to increase in 2012, though the growth has slowed, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis on Monday.

The BEA reported the personal income figures for Maine and its counties late last year, though budget cuts in Washington, D.C., prevented the underlying data from being released until now.

Statewide, Maine’s personal income in 2012 was $53.3 billion, a 3.2 percent increase from 2011, but what’s included in that number?

Personal income is broken into three components: earned income, which comes from wages and salaries; investment income, which come from dividends, interest and rent; and government sources, referred to as transfer payments, which include checks from Social Security, unemployment, welfare agencies and Medicaid.

Economists look at the percent of earned income versus unearned income as measure of a particular state, county or metropolitan region’s productivity.

In 2012, government transfer payments accounted for 22.2 percent of Maine’s personal income total, while earned income was 60.4 percent and investment income was 17.4 percent.

Every Maine county saw an increase in 2012 of government transfer payments to residents, though the year-over-year percent increases were smaller than the year before. The counties with the highest percent increase in government payments included Hancock (a 3.19 percent increase from 2011, compared to 5.4 percent increase from 2010 to 2011), York (3.16 percent increase, compared to 3.91 percent increase from 2010 to 2011), Lincoln (3.14 percent increase compared to 4.61 percent increase from 2010 to 2011) and Sagadahoc (2.93 percent compared to 4.71 percent increase from 2010 to 2011).

Charles Colgan, a former chair of Maine’s Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission and a professor of public policy and management at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service, said the slowing of growth in transfer payments is likely related to long-term unemployed people having their employment benefits expire.

“It reflects the long-term nature of the employment situation with a lot of people dropping out of their eligibility for income supports, including unemployment insurance,” Colgan said.

Cumberland County residents received $2.2 billion in government payments in 2012, a 2.14 percent increase from the prior year. Transfer payments consisted of 15.8 percent of Cumberland County’s total, a decrease from 2011, when transfer payments consisted of 16.2 percent. Earned income consisted of 65.8 percent of Cumberland County’s total income in 2012, while investment income consisted of roughly 18.4 percent of the total.

Aroostook County saw the smallest growth in transfer payments from 2011 and 2012, just a 0.26 percent increase.

Whit Richardson can be contacted at 791-6463 or at:

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