Looking for some good news in the economy? We found some. Personal income in 362 of the nation’s 366 metropolitan statistical areas increased in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Elizabethtown, Kentucky – a city 45 miles south of Louisville – posted the highest growth rate, with a 10.1 percent increase in personal income compared with 2009 figures.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis defines personal income as income received by all persons from all sources, and is the sum of net earnings by place of residence, property income, and current transfer receipts.

Earnings and property income both rose in 2010, reflecting signs of recovery from the recession. Earnings rose 2.3 percent in 2010, compared to a 4.0 decline in 2009. Property income, which fell 6.1 percent in 2009, grew by 0.6 percent in 2010.

Government earnings growth, particularly in the military, was noted in the four metro areas with the largest percentage gains in personal income.

“An uptick in personal income bodes well for the economy,” says Michael J. Ross, CFA, Senior Municipal Trading Desk Analyst with Morgan Keegan. When income goes up, it brings the potential for greater spending, thereby infusing more capital into the economy. It can also translate into higher savings rates, he explains.

According to Ross, these numbers should be viewed with “cautious optimism.”

“While personal income growth is a good sign, bear in mind that the numbers are lagging about a year. With unemployment rates remaining stubbornly high – particularly in certain states – it is hard to say whether this positive trend in personal income will continue when we look at next year’s data.”