WASHINGTON -- Arkansans saw their incomes rise in 2015, but not as dramatically as the rest of the nation, the White House said Wednesday.
Real median household income climbed by 1.6 percent statewide last year, officials said. Nationwide, incomes were up 5.2 percent, the largest jump since the federal government began tracking the data.
"Income grew for every group, every region of the country, every demographic group, every age group," said Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
Although the national figures were reported last month, the White House is releasing a more detailed state-by-state analysis of the Census Bureau Current Population Survey data today.
A handful of reporters from regional newspapers were briefed Wednesday by Furman.
"We still have challenges and we still have issues that we face," the economist said.
Nonetheless, rising income combined with decreasing poverty levels are encouraging, he said.
A White House report this week described "solid employment growth and robust real wage growth" so far this year.
"We'd like to see more income growth, and the preliminary evidence from 2016 is that we are getting a decent amount more income growth this year," Furman said. "This trend is continuing."
The White House said median household incomes rose sharply in Pine Bluff (7.8 percent) and Fort Smith (4.5 percent), but didn't release figures for Little Rock, Jonesboro, Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Texarkana or Hot Springs.
White House officials also trumpeted the drop in the uninsured after the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, saying the share in Arkansas fell from 16.0 percent in 2013 to 9.5 percent in 2015.
Low, average and high-income workers all saw increases in income last year.
The jump for lower income workers "was directly as a result of states and localities raising their minimum wages," he said.
In 2014, Arkansas voters approved a ballot measure raising the minimum wage from $6.25 to $7.50 effective Jan. 1, 2015. The wage climbed to $8 per hour on Jan. 1 of this year and will rise to $8.50 per hour on Jan. 1, 2017.
Michael Pakko, chief economist at the Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said he was skeptical of White House claims that incomes are rising fastest in Pine Bluff and Fort Smith.
"Those are both areas that have been experiencing relatively slow growth, so that really surprises me," he said.
Asked about the overall state of the Arkansas economy, he said it is growing. "Nothing spectacular, but we're moving in the right direction," he said.
The figures cited by the White House on Wednesday come from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey for 2015. They are different than the Census Bureau's American Community Survey data, which also showed Arkansas wages lagging behind the rest of the country.
The American Community Survey showed Arkansas income climbing by 1. 7 percent. The state's median household income of $41,995 in that survey placed it 49th, ahead of only Mississippi. The national average household income was $55,775.
Business on 09/29/2016
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