The downturn in the national economy has trickled down to the average citizen’s paycheck. Personal income fell by an average of 1.8 percent in 2009 for metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S., according to a newly released report by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). This decline reverses the trend from 2008, when personal income rose by 2.7 percent.

No region of the country is immune to the recession. Personal income declined in 223 metropolitan statistical areas (MSA), increased in 134, and remained unchanged in nine, according to the BEA’s Personal Income for Metropolitan Areas – 2009. A map showing the distribution of changes in personal income shows a fairly even distribution of increases and decreases in all parts of the country.

Personal income – defined as “income received by all persons from all sources” – includes earnings from wages and proprietor’s income; property income (including rental income, dividends, and interest); and personal transfer receipts (which can include insurance settlements, social services benefits – including unemployment, and transfer receipts from businesses).

Of the 134 MSAs that experienced a growth in personal income, only 57 of these corresponded to a growth in net earnings from wages. A significant portion of these gains were in the government sector.

Jacksonville, North Carolina ranked number one in terms of personal income growth, with a 14 percent increase from 2008 to 2009. Jacksonville – with an estimated population of approximately 174,000 (metro area) – is a young city, with a large military presence.

“Military earnings growth was particularly strong in seven of the ten MSAs with the fastest personal income growth in 2009,” according to the release. In addition to Jacksonville, these include Fayetteville, North Carolina; Manhattan, Kansas; Elizabethtown, Kentucky; Lawton, Oklahoma; Clarksville, Tennessee; and Killeen, Texas.

At the other end of the scale, Naples, Florida experienced a 7.1 percent decline in personal income, the steepest decline of all metro areas. This reduction in income is a double-whammy for Naples, which has seen more than its share of real estate woes as well.