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posted on 02 March 2017

January 2017 Median Household Income Not Significantly Different Than December

from Sentier Research

According to new data derived from the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS), median annual household income in January 2017 was $58,056, not significantly different than the December 2016 median of $58,189.

Median household income at the beginning of the great recession in December 2007 was $58,155. The Sentier Household Income Index (HII) for January 2017 was 98.7, down from the December reading of 98.9 (January 2000 = 100). The level of real median annual household income in January 2000 was $58,846, which marks the beginning of this statistical series.

Median household income in January 2017 was not significantly different than that at the beginning of the great recession ($58,155) more than nine years ago. More broadly, there has been a general upward trend in median household income since the post-recession low point reached in August 2011. This upward trend was initially marked by monthly movements, both up and down. Many monthly changes were not statistically significant. By the summer of 2014 however, that uneven trend became dominated by a series of significant monthly increases. However, with the exception of some minor ups and downs, median annual household income has essentially been flat since the fall of 2015. (See Figure 1.)

Median annual household income in January 2017 ($58,056) was 1.0 percent lower than in January 2016 ($58,635), but 9.0 percent higher than in August 2011 ($53,265). This general upward trend since August 2011 reflects, in part, the low level of inflation as measured by the CPI for all items used in this series, as opposed to the CPI less food and energy. However, energy prices recently have been on an upswing, contributing to the 0.6 percent increase in the CPI for all items between December 2016 and January 2017, and playing a significant role in the reported stagnation in median income this month.

[click on image to enlarge]

/images/z%20SentierResearch.png

According to Gordon Green of Sentier Research:

Although median annual household income did not decline significantly between December and January, it is down by $691 (or 1.2 percent) since November 2016. We continue to monitor the course of inflation, as this has a significant effect on the trend in real median annual household income. With the recent uptick in energy prices, the CPI for all items increased by 0.6 percent between December 2016 and January 2017. We are now at a point now where median household income is not significantly different than at the beginning of the great recession in December 2007, and 1.3 percent lower than January 2000, the beginning of this statistical series.

The January reading on the labor market from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a situation that is not that much different than December:

  • The official unemployment rate in January 2017 was 4.8 percent, not significantly different than the December 2016 rate (4.7 percent).
  • The median duration of unemployment was 10.2 weeks in January 2017, not significantly different than December 2016 (10.3 weeks).
  • The broader measure of employment hardship, which includes the unemployed, marginally attached workers (of which discouraged workers are a subset), and persons working part-time for economic reasons, was 9.4 percent in January 2017, slightly higher than the December 2016 reading (9.2 percent).

Real median annual household income in January 2017 can be put into broader perspective by comparisons with previous levels of household income since the last recession began and dating back to the start of the last decade:

  • The January 2017 median income of $58,056 is 1.7 percent higher than the median of $57,090 in June 2009, the end of the recent recession and beginning of the "economic recovery."
  • The January 2017 median is not significantly different than the median of $58,155 in December 2007, the beginning month of the recession that occurred more than nine years ago.
  • And the January 2017 median is now 1.3 percent lower than the median of $58,846 in January 2000, the beginning of this statistical series

The Sentier Household Income Index (HII) shows the value of real median annual household income in any given month as a percent of the base value at the beginning of the last decade (January 2000 = 100.0 percent):

  • The Sentier HII stood at 98.7 in January 2017, about the same as December 2007 (98.8) when the "great recession" began, but higher than June 2009 (97.0), when the "economic recovery" subsequently began.
  • The Sentier HII was 90.5 in August 2011, the low point in our household income series, compared to 98.7 in January 2017.

Notes:

Income amounts in this report are before-tax money income and have been adjusted for inflation; income amounts have been seasonally adjusted, unless otherwise noted.

Estimates of median annual household income and the Household Income Index (HII) provide the only measures of change in household income during 2013 and 2014. The U.S. Census Bureau issued its official estimates of income and poverty for calendar year 2012 in a report released on September 17, 2013.

The estimates in this report are based on the Current Population Survey (CPS), the monthly household survey that provides official estimates of the unemployment rate. The CPS samples approximately 50,000 households and 135,000 household members each month. As is the case with all surveys, the estimates are subject to sampling and nonsampling errors. All comparisons made in the report have been tested and found to be statistically significant at the 90-percent confidence level, unless otherwise noted.

Household income is defined as the sum of the incomes of all household members. Income refers to all sources of money income including earnings from work, Social Security, interest, dividends, cash welfare, retirement pensions, unemployment compensation, veterans' benefits, etc. Income excludes capital gains and losses, and lump-sum, one-time amounts. Household income is measured before the payment of federal and state income taxes and Social Security payroll taxes.


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