Most of Arizona’s metropolitan areas lagged behind the rest of the country in income growth between 2009 and 2010.

A new report Tuesday from the Bureau of Economic Analysis showed personal income in metro areas nationwide up 2.9 percent. Of the state’s six metro areas, only Yuma managed to beat that.

But particularly telling is that the earnings component — the amount of change due solely to what people were bringing home in their paychecks — was far below the rest of the nation. In fact, the amount of total earnings of residents in Pima and Yavapai counties actually declined between 2009 and 2010.

The only thing that kept the economic picture from being worse is that the weak earnings were offset with what the federal government calls “transfer receipts,’’ outside funds ranging from retirement and medical benefits to unemployment insurance

Economists said the numbers are not surprising.

“These numbers that they’ve given us for metro Phoenix and metro Tucson are very close to what I was estimating they would come up with,’’ said Marshall Vest of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona.

But what concerns them is that there is little indication that things in Arizona are getting much better.

Dennis Hoffman of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University said most troubling is the attitude of consumers.

“We’ve got confidence wounded and barely breathing,’’ he said. And that was before the nation’s credit rating was downgraded and the markets took a beating.

“Now we’re just taking a stick and just jabbing it,’’ Hoffman said. “It’s worrisome.’’

Vest said he also had hoped that the 2010 figures would be the bottom, with recovery beginning late in the year.

“Clearly, the odds of recession have increased,’’ he said.

The numbers are an indicator of economic health. But figuring how what they show, however, is not always as clear.

Hoffman zeroed in on the poor earnings numbers.

“Part of those lost earnings could be people that just left,’’ he said, especially undocumented workers.

He acknowledged that the report reflects what might be called “old news which confirms what everybody knew’’ about the state’s economy for the last two years.

“The real interesting thing is going to be what this is going to look like 12 months from today,’’ Hoffman continued.

“Any reasonable economic forecast had some improvement baked in the cake in 2011 and accelerating in 2012 and accelerating (again) in 2013,’’ he explained. But he said the news of the last three to four weeks makes him doubt that.

“I fear that we’ve stalled out here,’’ Hoffman said.

Vest also sees signs of trouble.

“We had the supply chain disruptions from the disaster in Japan,’’ he said. Vest said energy prices also spiked, though they did back off a bit recently, and the fact that housing prices are still declining.

Then there was what Vest called “the debacle in Congress over this debt thing,’’ with no real long-term resolution of the underlying problem.

“And then we have the downgrade by S & P which was really a vote of no confidence in the federal government’s ability to do what’s right and what’s needed in order to protect the U.S. economy and keep us growing,’’ he said.

The one big exception to the trend was in the Yuma area. Vest said some that might reflect the upgrade to the port of entry facilities which expedited international trade.

Percent total personal income growth 2009 to 2010

(negative numbers in parentheses)

Area / Total change / Earnings / Property* / Transfers

U.S. metro areas / 2.9% / 2.3% / 0.6% / 7.8%

Phoenix+ / 1.6% / 0.1% / 0.7% / 8.6%

Pima County / 1.9% / (0.1%) / 0.4% / 8.4%

Coconino County / 2.6% / 0.9% / 1.1% / 9.1%

Yavapai County  / 1.5% / (1.4%) / 0.4% / 7.5%

Mohave County / 2.9% / 0.3% / 1.1% / 9.1%

Yuma County / 4.0% / 0.8% / 1.7% / 12.9%

* Includes dividends, interest and rent

+ Maricopa and Pinal counties

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

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