Northeastern Pennsylvania is a Bargain with Higher Wages and Low Cost of Living


Northeastern, PA - It's still a bargain to live here, with the cost of things like apartments, a plumber's services and groceries nearly 10 percent less than the rest of the country.

Also, personal incomes in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metro area are rising.

Per capital personal income, a gauge on income based on the cumulative incomes divided by the population, grew 3.6 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis' most recent numbers.

New national numbers released Thursday show personal income as a whole increased $65.6 billion from June to July this year, which is less than 1 percent, but the largest jump in income since February.

Of the 20 metro areas wholly contained in Pennsylvania or partly in the state, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area ranked eighth lowest for the cost of consumer goods, fourth lowest for services and rents and fourth lowest for all items, according to a Sunday Times review of the most recent regional BEA data, which includes Pennsylvania, New York City, and parts of New Jersey. The review area also includes parts of Delaware, Maryland and Ohio.

Per capita personal income in 2015 in the region, adjusted for inflation, was 12th highest in the region at $41,376.

So what does all that mean?

Simply put, the local region offers more to its workers with higher wages and a low cost of living.

Although the New York/Newark/Jersey City metro area, which includes Pike County, boasts one of the highest per capita personal incomes, the cost of living there is also significantly higher - 122 percent of the national average.

“We have historically had lower wages than other parts of Pennsylvania, and the state and national averages as a whole,” said Teri Ooms, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development, a collaboration between area colleges and universities.

“We are, however, seeing some level of improvement over the past several years, such that the growth rate has been faster than other areas, which means we've been closing the gap.”

The Consumer Price Index, a measure of how prices change over time for a fixed set of goods and services, in July was 1.3 percent higher than the prior year for the northeast region, which includes Pennsylvania.

The price of clothing dropped 0.7 percent; food and beverages rose 1.4 percent; vehicles, both new and used, dropped 2.2 percent.

The cost to rent an apartment rose in the region by 2.4 percent from the prior year, a snapshot that supports an ongoing trend.

“I think it's a product of two things,” Ooms said. “One: demand, and the other is the fact that property taxes are increasing, and so landlords are passing that increase on to renters.”

Despite upward pressure on taxes, the institute began noting positive net migration - more people moving into the area than moving away - as early as 2002.

Many of them are young people, recent college graduates, who have found promise in a lusty tech sector, still small, but slowly growing into its own.

“It's not statistically significant yet, but I would imagine in the next several years, you're going to see a bigger proportion of younger folks coming here,” she said.

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