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During the official recession, which economists tell us lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, median annual household income fell from $55,309 to $53,518. But that was a recession, and we're now told the economy is in recovery, so things must have gotten better in the two years since then, right?
Actually (PDF), according to a study by two former Census officials, since the recession officially ended, the median household income has continued to drop, falling from $53,518 to $49,909. And groups that were already more likely to be struggling economically have experienced larger declines. While households with a white head saw their income decline by 4.7 percent since the recession ended, for households with a Hispanic head it was 4.9 percent and with a black head, 9.4 percent.
One reason pay has stagnated is that many people who lost their jobs in the recession — and remained out of work for months — have taken pay cuts in order to be hired again. In a separate study, Henry S. Farber, an economics professor at Princeton, found that people who lost jobs in the recession and later found work again made an average of 17.5 percent less than they had in their old jobs.
When the average person to lose a job and find another one ends up making a lot less than they had before, that says it's not about the people, it's about the jobs available; our economy isn't just losing jobs, it's losing good jobs. As Felix Salmon writes, "We’ve known for years that America has a huge unemployment problem. But I had no idea that the plight of the employed was this bad." This is what it means to talk about the 99 percent—the middle class is being destroyed, and whether you're working or not, if there's no middle class and you're not wealthy, you're going to lose out.