Loudoun County was walloped by the economic slump in 2001 and 2002. Loudoun residents disproportionately staffed the telecommunications and technology companies that lined the Dulles Corridor before imploding. Two of its most significant employers, America Online and WorldCom, wound up laying off lots of people. And they weren't alone.

Those pressures may explain why the average Loudoun resident had $3,800 less income in 2002 than in 2001, even as personal income per capita rose in the rest of the region and the nation as a whole. The only other county in the Washington area where income shrunk was another outer suburban county, Prince William, the bedroom county for many tech workers employed in Fairfax County. Income there was down $161.

The figures come from the Commerce Department, which released the detailed 2002 personal income data last week. One piece of good news: The Washington area passed the Boston area with the nation's fourth-highest income per capita, behind Bridgeport, Conn., San Francisco, and San Jose. The region's income per capita was $42,773 in 2002, up from $42,241 in 2001. That is a rise of $532, which in percentage terms is on par with the nation as a whole.

While people made significantly less in Loudoun and Prince William in 2002, incomes rose sharply in the District and some inner suburbs. In the District, income was up $1,516, or 3.4 percent. In Prince George's County, it rose $984, or 3.3 percent. In Alexandria, it was up $1,633, or 3.1 percent.

-- Neil Irwin