Nightly News   |  September 17, 2013

Troubling numbers point to uncertain economic recovery

The median household income has dropped slightly to a little more than $51,000, which is still lower than it was when the recession began. NBC’s John Yang reports.

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>>> of millions of americans are stuck five years now after the depth of the great american recession. new data out today from the u.s. census bureau is showing us more than 46 million living below the poverty line , by the way, that is considered $23,500 for a family of four. more than one in five americans in poverty are children. needy and household income , that is the exact mid-point, about the same as last year, a little more than $51,000, a little more than 8% less than before the recession hit. so as part of our reporting series on poverty that we call "in plain sight," we get our report tonight from nbc's john yang .

>> reporter: ben and sue harback's comfortable life took an abrupt turn in the last five years, they both lost their jobs.

>> i came home and said remember how things couldn't get worse after you got laid off? she said yeah, i said well, things just got worse because i got laid off.

>> reporter: a solidly middle class two-income household became a no-income household. they became clients at the food bank . ben is working again, packing ties. but they have gone from an income of $150,000 to $30,000.

>> we just have to live a different life-style for right now, at least.

>> reporter: the harback situation highlights the recovery's have's and have not's. in 2012 , the top 5% of the households, those making more than $91,000 took in the same as they did before the recession, but the other 95% made less. that is reflected at the local food bank.

>> has the recovery meant you have gone back to where you were before the recession?

>> nowhere close. families still in need of our services are coming for more times and staying for a longer period of time.

>> reporter: for now, the harbacks have used savings to hold onto their house. they are no longer embarrassed to know what the recession did to them.

>> now, i let people know. because if something happens to any of our friends we can help them and tell them where to go.

>> reporter: an expertise they would rather not have. john yang , nbc news, naperville, illinois.