WASHINGTON - The differences in per capita incomes among, the 50 states narrowed last year, according to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

"The states with the fastest growth in per capita income were those with per capita incomes below the U.S. average, and the states with the slowest growth in per capita income generally were those with per capita incomes above the U.S. average," the report says.

For example, the five states with the fastest per capita income growth in 1991 were in the bottom 15 in terms of actual per capita income, according to the report, which updated the preliminary figures released in April.

Montana's 7.0% increase marked the fastest per capita income growth in 1991, the report says.

Four out of the five states with the slowest per capita income growth were in the top 15 in terms of actual per capita income, according to the report.

Nevada experienced the slowest per capita income growth at 0.5%. California came in second with 1.3% growth. One exception to the pattern was Idaho, which was tied for third with Alaska and Delaware for slowest growth at 1.5%.

Nationally, per capita income increased an average of 2.4% to $19,092 last year, compared to a 5.3% gain in 1990 and a 6.5% advance in 1989. Last year was the second straight year that growth slowed, and "the increase in 1991 was the smallest in 30 years," the report says.

The same 10 states had the highest per capita incomes in 1991 and 1990. Connecticut again led the list, this time with a per capita income of $26,022, the report says. New Jersey came in second, followed by Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland.

California dropped from eighth to ninth place, and Hawaii jumped from ninth to seventh.

There was also little change among the 10 poorest states from 1990 to 1991. Mississippi remained the poorest with a per capita income of $13,328, according to the report. The second poorest state was West Virginia, followed by Utah, Arkansas, and New Mexico.

The report also notes that 1991 was the first year since 1982 that inflation outpaced per capita income gains. Last year, inflation increased by 4.4%, compared to the 2.4% gain in per capita income, according to the report.

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