Costs rising faster than paychecks in NC

Posted March 29, 2012 5:43 p.m. EDT
Updated March 29, 2012 7:23 p.m. EDT

— The rate of per capita income growth in North Carolina is among the smallest nationwide, according to a new federal report.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis says that incomes grew at 3.3 percent per capita statewide last year, from $35,007 to $36,164. That compares with a 4.3 percent rate nationwide, from $39,937 to $41,663.

North Carolina's income growth ranked ahead of only Maine and Alaska, according to the report.

The Southeast was the worst region in the country for income growth last year, with six states ranking 40th or lower. Meanwhile, the Plains region had four of the top seven per capita growth states, led by No. 1 North Dakota at 6.7 percent.

Area residents said Thursday that they can feel their wallets getting squeezed as they see gas climbing to $4 a gallon and the cost of everything from food to clothes to utilities on the rise.

"Most food prices are going up. Gas is going up, but your wages, if they're not staying the same, you're only getting a slight increase," construction worker Scott Atkins said. "It's not enough to make a dent in what you need."

The information technology industry posted one of the healthier income growth rates for North Carolina, at 6.5 percent. Other industries that were at or above the national average last year include finance and insurance, real estate, professional services and arts and entertainment.

Yvelisse Vieira, whose employer, RBC Bank, was recently acquired by PNC Bank, said her income hasn't gone up.

"I'm getting a pay cut," Vieira said. "Although I'll be doing the same work, they don't pay the same."

Meanwhile, the agricultural industry in the state saw incomes drop by almost 15 percent. Incomes in the construction industry, the military and state and local governments barely budged.

"When it comes to a point when you got to choose between groceries or paying this bill or that, it gets tough," Atkins said.

Construction worker Mark Wilkerson said he went four years without a raise before switching jobs in October.

"We're lucky to have a job because a lot of guys in our line of work don't have a job," Wilkerson said. "There's probably 20 guys waiting in line to take one of our positions right now."