By at least one measure, the great recession that started in December 2007 was officially recovered from by the time President Obama left office, the New York Times reports. According to Census Bureau figures released Tuesday, the median household income in America in 2016 was $59,039—an increase of 3.2%. That puts the median household income above where it was in 2007 before the recession hit. "Real median household income has finally completed its nine-year slog of digging out of the ditch," one economist tells USA Today. And the Washington Post reports last year's median household income was the highest on record—beating out the previous high set in 1999. However, the Census Bureau changed its methodology in 2014, so the record isn't definitive.
Median household income is one of the most important signs of how the middle class is doing, and the Census report shows good progress by low- and middle-income Americans in the final two years of the Obama administration. The Census attributes the gains in 2016 to a lot of Americans finding full-time or better-paying jobs. Also in 2016, the number of Americans living in poverty dropped from 43.1 million in 2015 to 40.6 million. However, inequality remains a problem. The median income for white households in 2016 was about $65,000; it was $39,500 for black households. Meanwhile, Asian households had a median income of $81,400 and Hispanic households of $47,700. (Read more income stories.)