Census: Median household income rose last year in Clark County

Figure of $69,062 in 2016 was nearly $4,800 more than in 2015

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith

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Median household income rose last year in Clark County to $69,062 — nearly $4,800 more than the typical household income for 2015.

That’s according to American Community Survey estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. The median is the point where half of incomes are less and half of incomes are more.

“That’s a huge jump,” said Scott Bailey, regional labor economist at the state Employment Security Department. “As the labor of the market tightens that’s when you start to see improvements in both wages and hiring.”

He said the jump reflects lower unemployment and a rising number of jobs here and across the Portland metropolitan area rather than the idea that everyone is getting raises. Some of that has been happening, too, with more competition to scoop up qualified labor. There’s also been some growth among high-wage jobs, Bailey said.

Construction, which has a median hourly wage of $26, has been the fastest-growing sector in terms of number of people being hired in Clark County, Bailey said.

Most income comes from wages, but income encapsulates money from all sources (both earned and unearned), such as investments, Social Security and retirement benefits. Still, median earnings for full-time workers in Clark County increased slightly from $49,699 in 2015 to $50,130 last year, the Census Bureau said.

Earnings for men remained higher than those for women, though the gender wage gap closed slightly. Last year, women earned about 76 percent of what men earned, compared to 75 percent in 2015. The gender wage gap was significantly wider on this side of the Columbia River; in Multnomah County, Ore., and Portland women earned 90.9 and 92.6 percent, respectively, of what men earned.

Another sign of economic growth is that poverty declined countywide from 10.3 percent in 2015 to 8.8 percent last year, which is lower than it was in the years leading up to the recession. Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defined poverty as a single person living off $11,880 or less annually; for a family of four, poverty would be $24,300 or less.

Bailey said the minimum wage increases influence the poverty rate. On Jan. 1, the hourly minimum wage went from $9.47 to $11, so that could be reflected in 2017 poverty figures when they’re released by the Census Bureau about a year from now. The minimum wage rises to $11.50 on Jan. 1, 2018.

It could also influence the average incomes of the poorest households. Last year, the bottom 20 percent of households took in $19,288 on average, up from $17,976 in 2015. Meanwhile, the top 20 percent averaged $209,623, compared to $196,2751 for 2015. Nearly one-third of households in Clark County earn at least $100,000.