By Jim Steinberg Staff Writer
Posted: 04/21/2011 06:16:19 PM PDT

Government statistics released Thursday have given hard numbers to what we already knew.

The recession has taken its toll on residents of the San Bernardino-Riverside counties.

The per capita personal income of the Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario Metropolitan Statistical Area dipped 2.8 percent in 2009 from 2008 levels.

For total personal income – which some economists say is the more meaningful of the two numbers – the decline was 1.6 percent.

With the Inland Empire region’s loss of 91,000 jobs in 2008 and 2009, the numbers are “not surprising,” said Esmael Adibi, director of the A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research at Chapman University in Orange.

Adibi prefers to look at the total personal income because the per capita income would be diluted by the region’s large numbers of children.

Personal income includes income from wages and personal businesses as well as interest and dividend income, he said.

Contrasting the new government findings with the go-go years of the past decade, Adibi noted that in 2006, total personal income grew 7.7 percent higher than in 2005.

“This is historical confirmation of what we already knew anyway, but it is still actually, quite, quite depressing,” said Johannes Moenius, associate professor at the University of Redlands’ Institute for Spacial Economic Analysis.

Moenius said that projecting these numbers forward into today’s world of rising gasoline and food prices, means Inland Empire residents are facing some serious hardships.

Incomes for 2010 and 2011 are not likely to be significantly different from the 2009 reading, he said, meaning that area residents are facing these vigorous price hikes with weakened financial resources, he said.

And the prospect of a weakening dollar could translate into fewer imports, which could hurt the region’s large warehousing and distribution network, he said.

Additionally, the area is weak in the number of people with college degrees and those with bachelors and masters degrees tend to be more insulated from downward economic pressures.

“I am not going to say this region is in a downward spiral – not yet – but it is going to be very difficult to pull out of this (economic slump),” Moenius said.

In 1999, the per capita personal income level for the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metro area was $22,452 and ranked 283rd in the United States.

In 2009, the region had a per capita personal income level of $29,680 for a ranking of 330th out of 366 Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the nation.

In 2009, the region had total personal income of nearly $123 billion, for a ranking of 18th in the United States, up from 21st in the nation in 1999, when the region’s total personal income was $71.6 billion.

The growth of this number was propelled by the influx of people, for a population growth rate far higher than the rest of the nation, said John Husing, a Redlands-based economist who studies this region.

In terms of population, the region ranked 14 out of the 366 MSAs in 2009.

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