Mike Shedlock

I have spoken many times about "income skew" during the recovery. However, I was never able to precisely quantify the "skew". It's now possible, thanks to many readers who sent a link to a Huffington Post article on Income Gains During the Recovery.

The original source of the data is a study Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States by Emmanuel Saez.

From 2009 to 2011, average real income per family grew modestly by 1.7% but the gains were very uneven. Top 1% incomes grew by 11.2% while bottom 99% incomes shrunk by 0.4%. Hence, the top 1% captured 121% of the income gains in the first two years of the recovery.

From 2009 to 2010, top 1% grew fast and then stagnated from 2010 to 2011. Bottom 99% stagnated both from 2009 to 2010 and from 2010 to 2011. In 2012, top 1% income will likely surge, due to booming stock-prices, as well as re-timing of income to avoid the higher 2013 top tax rates. Bottom 99% will likely grow much more modestly than top 1% incomes from 2011 to 2012.

This suggests that the Great Recession has only depressed top income shares temporarily and will not undo any of the dramatic increase in top income shares that has taken place since the 1970s. Indeed, excluding realized capital gains, the top decile income share in 2011 is equal to 46.5%, the highest ever since 1917 when the series start.

Mike Shedlock

Mike Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for Sitka Pacific Capital Management.