April 29, 2021 | Number of The Day
Increase in personal income in New Jersey, 2020

In this up-and-down world, where gobbets of alarming data are hurled at us daily, it’s only briefly discombobulating to learn that growth in personal income in the U.S. for 2020 was the highest in 20 years. In that first tumultuous year of the coronavirus pandemic, every state saw an increase in total personal income, according to research from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

But the data flatters to deceive, as Pew’s analysis makes plain; for, the sharpest annual growth in two decades was due to “historic gains in unemployment benefits, federal aid, and other public assistance” to help states weather the public health crisis. By the end of 2020, combined state and federal government assistance had climbed 35%, representing the largest annual increase since the 1940s. Moreover, Pew analysts conclude that “Without government support, most states would have sustained declines in personal income — a key economic indicator — as the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on business activity.”

That brings us to the state-by-state rankings, with the caveat that statewide sums are aggregates, not descriptive of trends for individuals and households. The top personal income growth — adjusted for inflation — was in Arizona and Montana (both, 7.1%). They were followed by Utah (6.9%), Idaho (6.8%), Rhode Island (6.4%), and Maine (6.3%). New Jersey recorded a 5.5% increase. Income growth recorded in our neighboring states was: Connecticut (1.7%), Delaware (4.3%), New York (3.5%) and Pennsylvania (5.7%).