The median U.S. household income rose 6.8% to $68,700 in 2019, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, the highest on record.
Tuesday’s figures show that the country was enjoying the best economic conditions in a generation before the pandemic struck, with low unemployment, fast-rising incomes, and declining poverty.
The number of people in poverty in 2019 fell by 4.2 million to 34.0 million, the bureau reported.
The poverty rate fell by 1.3 percentage points to 10.5%, the fifth consecutive annual decline and the lowest rate observed since estimates were initially published for 1959.
President Trump has campaigned touting the economy as it was performing prior to the mass layoffs of the spring and summer. The census data indicates that households were indeed beginning to reap the rewards of more than a decade of economic expansion and rising employment before the coronavirus hit.
Yet the rise in median income has likely been undermined by the pandemic. Unemployment has soared from 3.5% in December to 8.4% in August, and many workers have been forced to take pay cuts. Federal relief, however, helped prop up household incomes through the summer.
The portion of people without health insurance in 2019 was 8%, compared to 8.5% in 2018 and 7.9% in 2017, according to the Census Bureau. In 2019, the percentage of people with employer-provided coverage at the time of interview was slightly higher than in 2018, from 55.2% in 2018 to 55.4% in 2019. Meanwhile, all states and the District of Columbia had a lower uninsured rate in 2019 than in 2010.
Many of the people who lost their jobs in the pandemic also lost their employer-provided health insurance coverage. Of those depending on employer health insurance who lost their jobs, 1 in 5 of them also lost their health coverage, according to a recent survey by the Commonwealth Fund.
The Census warned that its estimates of household incomes may be overstated because of data collection problems caused by the pandemic.