Last week’s job numbers looked bright. As of September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that unemployment had fallen to 5.9%, and the economy added nearly 250,000 new jobs, exceeding expectations. It’s yet another sign of welcome relief after devastating years of recession and an uncertain, ongoing recovery.
But the sunny jobs report doesn’t reflect another ongoing issue–the income inequality that became a lightning rod for public discourse in 2011 and helped shape the 2012 presidential race. Last week, the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning Washington, D.C. thinktank, published a chart illustrating just how quickly the fortunes of the wealthiest Americans are outpacing those of American families with median wealth. Between 2010 and 2013 alone, the number of median-wealthy families whose assets combined to match the wealth of six Walmart billionaires on the Forbes 400 list grew by more than 600,000 net worths. By 2013, you’d need to combine nearly 1.78 million median net worths (at $81,200 each) to equal that of the six wealthiest Waltons.
A labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley, made another chart illustrating the same issue. Sylvia Allegretto looked at the fortunes of the median American family, the Forbes 400 list, and the six Waltons in two time spans–between 2007 and 2010 and between 2010 and 2013.
While median family wealth continued to dip slightly in later years, the Forbes 400 list’s net worths increased by 45%. The six Waltons’ net worths alone jumped 51%.