Middle class income rises to $61,400

11 months 5 days 16 hours ago Wednesday, September 12 2018 Sep 12, 2018 Wednesday, September 12, 2018 11:21:00 AM CDT September 12, 2018 in News
By: Tami Luhby, CNN

(CNN) - Americans' finances are continuing to improve.

Median household income rose to $61,400 in 2017, up 1.8% from a year earlier, according to data released by the US Census Bureau on Wednesday.

The report is the first look at the nation's fortunes under the Trump administration. The increase continues a streak of strong income growth that began in 2015 during President Barack Obama's second term. Median income grew 3.2% in 2016 and 5.2% the year before.

The poverty rate, meanwhile, dropped to 12.3%, down from 12.7% the prior year.

The results are a promising sign that the rosier job market is helping a growing number of workers and their families, said Elise Gould, senior economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Group. The unemployment rate fell from 4.8% to 4.1% over the course of 2017.

However, the income boost likely stems more from the fact that an increasing number of people are getting jobs and they are working longer hours, rather than getting hefty raises, experts said. Wage growth has remained muted for years. There are signs it is starting to pick up, but rising inflation may eat away at much of the gains.

Poverty, meanwhile, continues to decline as the economy strengthens. Last year, it returned to pre-recession levels.

Lower-income Americans are benefiting from the tight job market since employers are now willing to hire those who had been marginalized in the past. Also, 21 states plus the District of Columbia raised their minimum wages last year, giving poor workers an income boost that may have pushed them over the poverty line.

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