Things were bad before we knew it

WASHINGTON — Things really are bad all over — and they were bad even before the housing and finance industries crashed and sent the economy into a tailspin.

New census data show that throughout the first half of the decade the slumping economy touched nearly every community in the country. In the vast majority of the nation's cities and towns, incomes dropped while poverty and unemployment rose.

Small and medium-size cities in the Midwest were hit hardest, with jobless rates doubling or tripling in communities throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

The data being released Tuesday are the first detailed economic, social and demographic reports for small- and medium-size cities since the 2000 census. The information was collected over three years, from 2005 through 2007, providing a mid-decade snapshot of every community with at least 20,000 residents.

The data come from the American Community Survey. Census-takers interview 3 million households a year, producing annual data for geographical areas with populations of 65,000 or more. For areas with at least 20,000 people, the survey produces three-year averages.

The Associated Press analyzed economic data from the 2,000 cities and towns across the nation with populations of 20,000 or more, comparing the 2005-2007 data with figures from the 2000 census.

Among the findings:

■ Median household income dropped in 77 percent of the cities and towns. Incomes dropped in the wealthiest communities as well as the poorest. Charleston, Ill., home to Eastern Illinois University, saw the biggest drop — 31 percent — to a median household income of just less than $21,000.

Nationally, incomes dropped by 4.3 percent during the period, to $50,007.

■ The poverty rate increased in 70 percent of the cities and towns. Athens, Ohio, home to Ohio University, had the highest poverty rate, at 52.3 percent, in the 2005-2007 period.

Nationally, the poverty rate increased from 12.4 percent to 13.3 percent since the start of the decade.

■ The unemployment rate increased in 71 percent of the cities and towns. Muskegon, Mich., a city of 40,000 near Lake Michigan, had the highest unemployment rate, 22.1 percent.

Nationally, the unemployment rate increased from about 4 percent in 2000 to 6.6 percent in the 2005-2007 period.

Jobless rate was rising

New census data show that the unemployment rate in Central Kentucky counties and the state was already rising in 2007.

Percent unemployed in each county

County 2007 2000

Clark 4.6 2.9

Fayette 3 3.7

Jessamine 4.4 2.9

Madison 4.7 3.2

Scott 4.5 2.6

Woodford 3.5 1.9

Kentucky 4 3.5