New data shows Americans' incomes still stagnant after recession

Tue Sep 16, 2014 3:54pm EDT
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By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In what has become a recurring theme in America's long slog back from the 2007-09 recession, most U.S. households again saw no noticeable increase in their income last year.

A report from the Census Bureau on Tuesday showed the country's median household income edged up just $180 last year to $51,939, a gain deemed statistically insignificant.

Income at the median, meaning half the country earned more and half earned less, has declined nearly $5,000 since 2007 when the nation fell into a deep downturn.

The figures make it easier to understand why many Americans think the United States remains in recession and why President Barack Obama's approval ratings have hovered near 40 percent.

Obama took office a few months before the recession ended in June 2009, and a frustratingly slow economic recovery has vexed his presidency and could weigh on his Democratic Party in November's congressional elections.

Congress and the White House raised taxes on most Americans in 2013 while cutting back government spending, and the austerity was a major factor holding back economic growth.

"We are using a coffee cup to dig ourselves out of a big hole," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank in Washington.

Tuesday's report, however, did point to some encouraging developments.   Continued...

A woman counts her U.S. dollar bills at a money changer in Jakarta June 13, 2012.  REUTERS/Beawiharta