Military, Mining Fueled Personal Income Growth Last Year, Report Finds

Most of America’s metropolitan areas saw personal incomes rise last year, with the biggest increases coming in towns where the military thrives and oil and other mining interests dominate the private sector, according to a new government report.

But the gains in those towns may be only temporary, since the military is facing substantial cuts and the mining industry is grappling with new regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis released a report this week that found that personal incomes increased in 362 of 366 metropolitan statistical areas in 2010, rising overall by 2.9 percent after falling 1.9 percent the previous year.

The military fueled the four metro areas with the fastest personal income growth – Elizabethtown, Ky., (10.1 percent), Lawton, Okla., (8.9 percent), Manhattan, Kan., (8.5 percent), and Hinesville, Ga., (7.9 percent). In these towns, military earnings grew 14 percent or more last year.

Among the 20 metro areas with the fastest earnings growth, the mining industry led the way for two towns in Texas – Midland (7.4 percent) and Odessa (6.2 percent) – and for Williamsport, Pa., (4.7 percent).

But the new deficit-reduction law that was passed this month threatens to cut $900 billion from defense over the next 10 years -- $400 billion in the first phase of the deal and up to another $500 billion in the second phase if a so-called super congressional committee is unable to craft a more targeted spending-cut package by the end of the year.

And the EPA finalized new air quality regulations last month that critics say will cripple the coal industry, cause the loss of millions of jobs and raise electricity rates for consumers. The EPA, though, says the regulations will prevent 34,000 premature deaths and save $280 billion a year in health benefits.