Median incomes in decline for two years after recession comes to a technical end

I was skeptical of the decision to call summer 2009 the end of the recession. Too many indicators remained below their previous highs — in many cases far below — and some have still not recovered. As I’ve noted here repeatedly, the state of Georgia has lost more than 30,000 jobs over the last 12 months. Yes, employment is a lagging indicator of the economy’s health — but the economy has been growing for two years.

Now a new study by two former U.S. Census employees — Gordon W. Green Jr. and John F. Coder — has spotlighted the dramatic declines in real median income in America through June 2011. (“Real”: inflation-adjusted. “Median”: the midpoint, not the average.) The NYT has some great coverage here, but I’m going to cite some snippets from the report itself. The bullet points below are directly quoted from the overview of that report:

  • Real median annual household income has fallen significantly more during the economic recovery period from June 2009 to June 2011 than during the recession lasting from December 2007 to June 2009.
  • During the recession, real median annual household income fell by 3.2 percent, from $55,309 in December 2007 to $53,518 in June 2009. During the economic recovery, real median annual household income fell by an additional 6.7 percent, from $53,518 in June 2009 to $49,909 in June 2011.
  • For the entire period from December 2007 to June 2011, real median annual household income has declined by 9.8 percent. A decline of this magnitude represents a significant reduction in the American standard of living.

The researchers also compiled a Household Income Index, which was synced to 100 in January 2000. The index peaked at only 100.8 in February 2002, and has spent only 9 months over 100 in over 11 years. The level was 89.4 in June 2011, which indicates a huge decline in the spending power of American households near the median.

Here’s a graph: