New census data shows that U.S. household incomes rose for the third straight year, up 1.8 percent when adjusted for inflation.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the figures, released on Wednesday (Sept. 12), show median household income increased to $61,372 last year —the highest on record. However, it was noted that a change in the way the figures are calculated over time led to imperfect comparisons, with census officials adding that this latest figure isn’t statistically different from past income peaks in 1999 and 2007. In fact, the 2017 growth rate fell behind the previous two years.
While men saw a 3 percent increase in median earnings, women’s income remained relatively the same. The number of people working full-time year-round increased by 2.4 million in 2017. The data also showed that there were 39.7 million people in poverty last year, which dropped 0.4 percentage points to its lowest level since 2006.
For the most part, incomes went up because Americans are working more hours. “We’re continuing to see that shift from part-time, part-year work to year-round, full-time work,” said Trudi Renwick, an economist at the Census Bureau.
However, some economists have expected wages to rise faster due to the strength of the economy and an unemployment rate around 4 percent.
“At the kinds of unemployment levels that we have, if all we’re seeing is a less than 2 percent growth in [incomes], that’s not what you would expect with the kinds of data that we have today,” said Peter Atwater, president of Financial Insyghts, an economic consulting firm in Wilmington, DE.
With midterm elections fast approaching, Republicans hope that the wage growth the country has seen will persuade voters to vote for GOP candidates, but Democrats are quick to point out that President Trump isn't responsible for the economy's improvement. In a speech at the University of Illinois last week, Former President Barack Obama said, “When you hear how great the economy’s doing right now, let’s just remember when this recovery started.”