There was new evidence last week of the damage done by the recent recession.
The U.S. Census Bureau released numerous new social, housing and economic estimates for larger geographic areas, including New Jersey's counties. And the results confirm the pain many are feeling.
Median household income dropped again last year in Morris, Passaic, Somerset and Sussex counties. And it's been a steady decline in three of the four from 2008 to 2011.
In Morris County, the typical household had $91,332 in income, down about $3,000 from 2010 and nearly 11 percent lower than the $102,147 median in 2008. Those changes are in real, inflation-adjusted dollars, so the impact is clear: Morris County households lost about $11,000 to save, invest and spend in just a four-year period.
In Somerset, the loss was about $8,000, or 8 percent, from more than $104,000 in 2008 to $96,360 last year.
Households in Passaic suffered the greatest percentage loss—nearly 13 percent—with income dropping from almost $60,000 to $52,382 last year, with a loss of more than $3,000 between 2010 and 2011.
Only in Sussex County did the inflation-adjusted median household income rise from 2008 to 2011—by 1.4 percent or a little more than $1,000 to $83,839. That's likely not enough to cover the four-year property tax increase on the typical home, never mind higher food and gas prices—during that time period, the inflation rate was 4.5 percent. Sussex County did have a one-year drop in income of $6,000.
Not surprisingly, at the same time, the Census estimates that in most cases, unemployment, the percentage of people without health insurance and those living in poverty all rose at the same time.
Five years ago, who could have conceived that 5 percent of the people in two of the richest counties in America would be considered poor by the federal government's terribly inadequate measure—the U.S. government only considered you poor if you had $22,350 or less in income last year?
In Passaic County, nearly 2 of every 10 people live in fear of illness or injury, as they have no health insurance.
The ramifications of all the data are clear.
When the uninsured get care, they tend to go to an emergency room, which has to treat them. So who pays?
Through higher bills — doctors and hospitals have to recoup their costs.
Through higher insurance premiums — insurance companies want to keep their profit margins high.
Eventually, government has to pay, in one way or another, to make up for increases in unemployment checks and food stamps and other programs that help the poor.
The same day Census officials put out these estimates, New Jersey released its latest unemployment figures: The number of people without jobs inched up to 9.9 percent. Nearly 1 in 10 New Jersey residents who are in the job market, seeking employment, can't find employment—more than three years after the supposed end of the recent recession. And that's only a measure of those in the job market, looking for work; it doesn't account for those who have given up.
Last week's economic news wasn't much different than it's been for the last few years: It seems like it's been nothing but bad.
It's way past time to change that. Politicians at all levels of government need to do more to help turn the tide and bring good economic news to New Jersey fast.