California incomes rise, but Stanislaus County lags much of state

jnsbranti@modbee.comFebruary 12, 2014 

In another indicator the economy is shaking off the recession, state tax officials reported this week that California’s median income rose 3.5 percent in 2012.

Stanislaus County incomes increased 3.8 percent, but local folks still earned significantly less than most other Californians. Stanislaus incomes also remained at less than what they were in 2008, before the recession fully gripped the region.

Stanislaus individuals reported earning a median $32,077 in 2012, compared with California’s $35,910 median. That difference means Stanislaus residents had $10.50 less to spend each day than those living elsewhere in the state.

The gap was wider for couples filing joint tax returns. Stanislaus couples earned $55,833, compared with the state’s median $70,938. So, couples here had to make do with $41.38 less each day than those living in other parts of California.

Incomes edged up from 2011 to 2012, but they remained at less than what Stanislaus residents were earning in 2008. Local couples earned $1,568 more in 2008 than they earned in 2012. Statewide incomes, by contrast, rose by nearly $2,000 per couple during those years.

The income disparity between counties was greater than ever in 2012.

Marin County couples, for instance, earned a median $127,471, which was more than double what Stanislaus couples earned and more than triple the $38,858 Imperial County couples earned.

Merced County residents also were among the lowest-earning Californians. Merced couples earned a median $45,228, and individuals earned $27,289.

The state Franchise Tax Board reported that California residents earned more than $1.46 trillion during 2012, and they paid 4.2 percent of that in state income taxes – nearly $61.7 billion.

Because Valley residents earned less, they also paid a lower percentage of their income in state taxes. Stanislaus residents paid less than 3.3 percent in state income taxes, and Merced residents paid just 2.9 percent. Marin residents, by contrast, paid nearly 7.6 percent of their income in state taxes.

The median income numbers for 2012, the tax board’s most recent data, are the midpoint of reported incomes in all counties.

“California in general has been going very nicely since the end of the recession, even though it’s not as strong as we’d like it to be,” said Sung Won Sohn, an economist at California State University, Channel Islands.

During 2012, Sohn said, statewide job gains were showing up in real estate, tourism, mortgage and banking, and in professional services such as accounting and management consulting.

“Now, in 2014, we’re creating higher-paying construction, manufacturing and IT jobs,” Sohn said. “When you look at the overall picture, it’s a very encouraging one.”

But Sohn acknowledged that recovery from the recession is “not uniform across the state.” He said the Central Valley and the Inland Empire are lagging in income and employment opportunities. Sohn said because they were more reliant on agriculture and the housing boom, those regions have struggled to recover as fast as the state’s more urban areas.

“It’s good to talk about economic recovery, but it depends on where you are. The vast majority of Californians are benefiting,” Sohn said, “but how well you are doing depends on where you are geographically ... and the industry you’re in.”

Another factor boosting California’s 2012 incomes: investment gains. That year, the combination of a robust stock market and uncertainty over 2013 tax hikes meant that many Californians sold stocks late that year, boosting their annual incomes.

The amount of capital gains income – what Californians received from selling stocks or other investments at a profit – is estimated to have doubled from 2011 to 2012, said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the state Department of Finance. In 2011, Californians reported $52.1 billion in capital gains income; a year later, it had jumped to $104.1 billion.

“It was one of the factors driving up adjusted gross incomes,” said Palmer. For 2013, capital gains income is expected to show “a modest decline,” to $87.5 billion.

The complete list is available on the Franchise Tax Board website, www.ftb.ca.gov.

Sacramento Bee reporter Claudia Buck contributed to this story. Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jnsbranti@modbee.com or (209) 578-2196.

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