West Virginia's household income was the lowest in the USA last year, while the state's poverty rate continued to be among the highest, according to a U. S. Census Bureau report issued Friday.

About 17 percent of West Virginia's 1.8 million residents were living in poverty in 2001-02, with the numbers increasing.

Poverty has been falling in the USA for nearly a decade, but has increased in the past two years, with the jobs moving abroad and high unemployment.

The median household income in West Virginia in 2002 was $30,429, based on 727,353 households. Per person average income is about $15,000 in the state.

Median income is the point at which half all households earned more than that amount, and half earned less.

"I don't think there is any question the state economy continues to struggle," said Mark Burton, director of research at Marshall University's Center for Business.

The elimination of jobs, many of which have gone to foreign countries through U. S. trade agreements, has taken a toll on the state.

Poverty numbers rose for a second straight year in 2002 across the US.

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