U.S. Census shows median income rose, poverty fell in 2019

Veterans and military personnel discuss job opportunities at a military job fair in Sandy, Utah

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. median household income rose again last year while the number of people in poverty continued to fall, according to government data on Tuesday that offered a snapshot of the economy before millions of American jobs were destroyed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Census Bureau in an annual report said the 2019 median household income was $68,703 compared with $64,324 the prior year, a 6.8% increase — the highest since the agency began tracking the data in 1967.

It also found that the nation’s poverty rate fell last year to 10.5%, a 1.3-percentage-point drop from 11.8% in 2018. Another supplemental measure of poverty that adjusts for government aid programs for low-income Americans found the rate was 11.7% last year, down from 12.8% in 2018.

It also found another measure of economic wellbeing — the number of people with health insurance for at least part of the year — fell as 1 million fewer people reported having coverage. In 2019, 29.6 million people did not have such insurance compared with 28.6 million the year before.

The snapshot of last year’s economy offers a look back before the novel coronavirus outbreak hit the United States earlier this year, largely shuttering the economy as the country sought to contain the disease.

Since then, more than 6.5 million people in the United States have contracted the highly contagious virus and more than 194,000 have died. Vast swaths of the economy were also devastated, sending unemployment rates to near-historic levels in the spring before an uptick in recent weeks.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)