Middle-class income rose to a record level in 2017 as the strong economy lifted the fortunes of more Americans, the U.S. Census reported Wednesday.

The median U.S. household earned $61,400 last year, meaning half of the families in the country brought in more income than that and half earned less.

The proportion of Americans living in poverty also dropped for the third straight year, to 12.3 percent in 2017 from 12.7 percent in 2016.

The report, which was based on a sample size of 98,000, does not contain a state-by-state breakdown. But it provides a regional analysis that shows Northeast households with a median income of $66,450 in 2017.

Maine’s median household income was $56,227 in 2017, an almost 4 percent increase from 2016, according to statistics released by the Census Bureau. The estimate has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Nationally, middle-class household income has been rising steadily in recent years as the economy has rebounded from the deep recession and millions of Americans have found jobs again. The extra pay from having another person in the home working is the largest factor contributing to the increase in income.


Last year marked the first time ever that middle-class incomes were above $60,000. Households can vary in size from a single person to multiple adults and children residing under the same roof, but the average U.S. household has 2.6 people. Median household income is generally viewed as the best gauge of how a typical middle-class home is faring financially.

During 2017, the unemployment rate averaged 4.4 percent, the lowest level in 17 years.

The number of people with jobs rose by 1.7 million in 2017, the Census Bureau report said. And the number of workers with full-time permanent jobs increased by 2.4 million.

“We’re continuing to see that shift from part-time, part-year work to year-round, full-time work,” said Trudi Renwick, an assistant division chief at the Census Bureau.

At the same time, the data underscores the lasting damage that the Great Recession did to the majority of American families. U.S. households are still earning essentially the same that they did in 2007 just before the Great Recession. And their inflation-adjusted median income remains slightly below the record in 1999 of $62,000, the Census Bureau said.

“The income of a typical household today is about where it was 18 years ago,” said Robert Greenstein, president of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Economists have been worried about why wage growth has been so sluggish lately, but Americans appear to be compensating for that by working longer hours or having another family member find employment. Job openings hit a record high in July, the Labor Department reported this week, and there are now more jobs available than unemployed workers.

This report includes material from Christopher Rugaber of

the Associated Press.

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