For the first time since 2007, incomes in the U.S. are on the rise — slightly. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, poverty is on the downturn, employment gains are looking more solid and the wage gap is narrowing.
Real median household income jumped by an inflation adjusted 5.2 percent from $53,718 in 2014 to $56,516 in 2015. Apart from the uptick in income, the number of full-time, year-round workers increased by 2.4 million in 2015. For most demographic groups, the 2015 income estimates were statistically higher than the 2014 estimates.
As income has been on the upswing, poverty has been on the decline, down 1.2 percent between 2014 and 2015. Calculated in citizens, that is 3.5 million fewer people living in poverty in 2015 than in 2014. The most attention-getting news in the report is a wage gap that is apparently narrowing. Also catching economists’ attention is the distribution of gains, which seems to have been meted out of whites, blacks, Hispanics, children and seniors, according to the report.
There are, however, pockets of lasting concern. Rural areas saw income decline 2 percent to $44,657, according to the report. Income equality also remains a factor.
“It would take a lot to move that needle,” Mark R. Rank, a professor of social welfare at Washington University in St. Louis, told The New York Times, adding that it’s worse here than in many other developed countries.
What will this mean for retailers going into the much anticipated holiday season remains to be seen. 2015 was a disappointing season, though experts are anticipating greater strength might be possible this year.