Real Median Household Income Rose 0.69% In June [Dow Jones Industrial Average, SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust]

dataDoug Short:  The Sentier Research monthly median household income data series is now available for June. The nominal median household income was up $506 month-over-month but up only $1,791 year-over-year. Adjusted for inflation, it was up $368 MoM and only $710 YoY. The real numbers equate to a 0.69% MoM increase and a 1.34% YoY increase. June marks the second month of real increases following two months of declines.

In real dollar terms, the median annual income is 6.6% lower (about $3,800) than its interim high in January 2008.

Background on Sentier Research

The traditional source of household income data is the Census Bureau, which publishes annual household income data in mid-September for the previous year.

Sentier Research, an organization that focuses on income and demographics, offers a more up-to-date glimpse of household incomes by accessing the Census Bureau data and publishing monthly updates. Sentier Research has now released its most recent update, data through June (available here). The numbers in their report differ from the Census Bureau’s in three key respects:

  1. It is a monthly rather than annual series, which gives a more granular view of trends.
  2. Their numbers are more current. The Census Bureau’s 2012 data will remain its latest until September 2014.
  3. Sentier Research uses the more familiar Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the inflation adjustment. The Census Bureau uses the little-known CPI-U-RS (RS stands for “research series”) as the deflator for their annual data. For more on that topic, see this commentary.

Monthly Median Household Income Since 2000

The first chart below is an overlay of the nominal values and real monthly values chained in June 2014 dollars. The red line illustrates the history of nominal median household, and the blue line shows the real (inflation-adjusted value). I’ve added callouts to show specific nominal and real monthly values for January 2000 start date and the peak and post-peak troughs.


Click for a larger image

In the latest press release, Sentier Research spokesman Gordon Green summarizes the recent data:

“The lack of significant change in real median annual household income between May and June 2014 underscores the uneven trend in the series since the low-point reached in August 2011. Our time series charts clearly illustrate that although the economic recovery officially began in June 2009, the recovery in household income did not begin to emerge until after August 2011. While many of the month-to-month changes in median income since the low-point in August 2011 have not been statistically significant, an overall upward trend is still clearly evident.

As for the data itself, Sentier makes it available in Excel format for a small fee (here). I have used the latest data to create a pair of charts illustrating the nominal and real income trends during the 21st century.

The blue line in the chart above paints the less optimistic “real” picture. Since we’ve chained in latest dollar value and the overall timeframe has been inflationary, the earlier monthly values are adjusted upward accordingly. In addition to the obvious difference in earlier real values, we can also see that real incomes peaked before the nominal (January of 2008, one month after the recession began, versus July 2008). Also the real post-recession decline bottomed later than the nominal (August 2011 versus September 2010).

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