WASHINGTON – Fifty percent of U.S. workers earned less than $26,364 last year, reflecting a growing income gap between the nation’s rich and poor, the government reported Thursday.

There were fewer jobs, and overall pay was trending down — except for the nation’s wealthiest. The number of people making $1 million or more soared by more than 18 percent from 2009, the Social Security Administration said, citing payroll data based on W-2 forms submitted by employers to the Internal Revenue Service.

Despite population growth, the number of Americans with jobs fell again last year, with total employment of just under 150.4 million — down from 150.9 million in 2009 and 155.4 million in 2008. In all, there were 5.2 million fewer jobs than in 2007, when the deep recession began, according to the IRS data.The unemployment rate remains at 9.1 percent, with more than 14 million out of work and 11 million others who have stopped looking for work or are working only part time. Since 1980, roughly 5 percent of annual national income has shifted from the middle class to the nation’s richest households, the Census Bureau reports.

The average U.S income last year was $39,959; the mean income was $26,364.