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A woman carries a box of food as others wait in line at a food bank in Van Nuys, Calif., in April 2020. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

In one of the worst years ever for the economy and labor market, America's poverty rate dropped, per one measure that takes into account pandemic-era aid, the government said Tuesday.

Why it matters: It underscores the colossal impact stimulus checks, expanded unemployment payments and other benefits had on households in 2020 — even as millions lost jobs. Without them (and other safety nets, like Social Security), the poverty rate jumped for the first time in five years by one percentage point to 11.4%.

The big picture: The poverty rate typically cited each year focuses solely on cash income. But an alternate rate that includes major aid programs took on new significance given the flood of pandemic-era stimulus injected into the economy.

  • That measure fell to 9.1% — the lowest rate since the government started publishing this estimate in 2009.

By the numbers: Stimulus checks lifted nearly 12 million Americans out of poverty, while expanded unemployment benefits lifted over 5 million.

Of note: There was no statistically significant change in the uninsured rate last year from 2018, the data shows. If someone lost their job, they were able to get coverage through Medicaid or other heavily subsidized individual health insurance.

Go deeper

Oct 13, 2021 - Podcasts

The economic fallout from rude customers

A recent survey of more than 13,000 workers found that 58% of restaurant and hotel employees plan to quit their jobs by the end of this year. And more than a third of them are citing difficult customers as the driving force. What are the knock-on economic effects?

  • Plus, LinkedIn’s censorship of some Chinese profiles.
  • And, charities take a page from government cash assistance.

Guests: Axios' Hope King, Bryan Walsh and Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Alex Sugiura, Lydia McMullen-Laird, and David Toledo. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

Social Security benefits to increase by almost 6% in 2022

Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Social Security benefits for approximately 70 million Americans will increase 5.9% next year, the Social Security Administration announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's the largest cost-of-living adjustment in 39 years as inflation continues to tick up largely from supply chain issues, according to AP.

Updated 3 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Facebook paying up to $14M to settle employment discrimination claims

Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook has agreed to pay up to $14.25 million to settle allegations that it discriminated against American workers by reserving positions for temporary visa holders, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The settlement represents the largest civil penalty and monetary award that the Civil Rights Division has recovered in the 35-year history of the Immigration and Nationality Act's anti-discrimination provision.