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Economy improves...incomes don't

March 6, 2012: 12:16 PM ET

Even though the national economy is on the upswing, many Americans haven't been reaping the benefits.

In fact, the median household income in January was $50,020, or 5.4% lower than it was in June 2009, the beginning of the economic recovery, according to a new estimate from Sentier Research, based on Census data.

This decline in income comes despite improvements in the job market. The unemployment rate stood to 8.3% in January, down from 9.5% when the recovery started.

The longer-term view is even more depressing. Median income is down 7.8% since the recession began in December 2007 and 8.7% since January 2000.

Though jobs are coming back, many of them are lower-wage positions in retail stores, restaurants and temporary help. A report released Monday by Intuit showed that small businesses continued to add positions in February, but they were mainly on the lower end of the pay scale.

Many higher-paying jobs -- particularly in construction and financial services -- were lost during the Great Recession. And these sectors haven't recovered to their prior strengths.

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About This Author
Tami Luhby
Tami Luhby
Senior writer, CNNMoney

Tami Luhby is a senior writer at CNNMoney and covers income inequality, state fiscal problems, unemployment, housing policy and other economic issues. Luhby previously covered personal finance for Newsday and banking for Crain's New York Business.

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