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Americans' Access To Basic Needs Hits Recession Lows As Income Growth Slows

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Americans' ability to access basic life necessities are at recession lows. And the country likely won't catch up with pre-recession incomes for a long time.

Gallup’s Basic Necessities Index fell to a level on par with lows measured in February and March 2009. At the same time, the U.S. median income has declined 7 percent in the past decade, and although economists predict incomes will rise in the next 10 years, the growth won’t be enough to get incomes back to pre-recession levels, according to the Wall Street Journal.

High levels of unemployment and plummeting home values have battered Americans' incomes, making it increasingly difficult for them to get access to basic necessities like food, health care and shelter. Nearly 20 percent of Americans say they've had trouble putting food on the table in the past 12 months, according to another recent Gallup poll. And while incomes dropped during the recession, the recovery has only exacerbated that trend.

Between December 2007 and June 2009, U.S. incomes fell 3.2 percent, while during the recovery between June 2009 and June 2011 incomes dropped 6.7 percent, a recent study from former Census Bureau officials found.

Even as incomes fall, companies are still squeezing as much as they can out of workers. Profits per employee went up for the second year in a row last year, according to financial analysis firm Sageworks.

Employers' ability to get the most out of their employees may be one reason the income gap between the wealthy and everyone else continues to grow. The total net worth of the bottom 60 percent of U.S. households is less than that of the Forbes 400 richest Americans.

And like the economists, Americans don't expect their situation to improve any time soon. Nine out of 10 Americans say they don't anticipate that they'll get a raise that will be enough to compensate for the rising costs of food and fuel, a recent American Pulse survey found.

A gauge of U.S. consumer expectations fell to its lowest level in 30 years on concerns about declining incomes, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment released Friday.

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