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A record 18.3% of the nation's total personal income was a payment from the government for Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, unemployment benefits and other programs in 2010. Wages accounted for the lowest share of income — 51.0% — since the government began keeping track in 1929.
The income data show how fragile and government-dependent the recovery is after a recession that officially ended in June 2009.
The wage decline has continued this year. Wages slipped to another historic low of 50.5% of personal income in February. Another government effort — the Social Security payroll tax cut — has lifted income in 2011. The temporary tax cut puts more money in workers' pockets and counts as an income boost, even when wages stay the same.