The non-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research recently decided that the most recent U.S. recession lasted from March through November of 2001.

The Bureau of the Census, on the other hand, reports that median household income in the U.S. has fallen for 4 straight years:

Median household income,
2003 dollars
1999 $44,922
2000 $44,853
2001 $43,882
2002 $43,381
2003 $43,318

Likewise, the employment-to-population ratio is much lower now than it was 4 years ago. The only good news is that it’s stopped falling, and is now just stagnant.

It seems to me that we all need to be a little clearer about what we mean when we talk about recession and recovery. Yes, the “economy” may be expanding. Middle-class wages aren’t. For my money, the latter is more important than the former.

(Thanks to Brad DeLong for the graph.)