Canadian families brought home a median after-tax income of $63,800 in 2009, but Statistics Canada says most households struggled to make gains that year as the recession dragged on.

The statistics agency reported Wednesday that families brought home smaller paycheques in 2009, relied more on government transfers and paid less taxes because of their reduced income.

The new StatsCan data gives Canadians one of their first glimpses of the recession's impact on incomes across the country, as well as a better understanding of how widely government assistance was distributed to those in need.

For families of two or more people, the median market income dropped to $63,000 in 2009, representing a decrease of about 3.2 per cent from the previous year. StatsCan said median market income includes all earnings, private pensions, as well as income from investments and other sources.

The median after-tax income of $63,800 was basically unchanged from the previous year, StatsCan said. The median figure in this category for senior families was $46,800, while it was $75,600 for two-parent families with children.

StatsCan said the stagnation in after-tax income was part of a trend that began in 2008, when a run of four years of consecutive gains ended.

On a province-by-province basis, StatsCan reported the following median after-tax incomes for families of two or more people in 2009:

  • Newfoundland and Labrador, $53,900
  • Prince Edward Island, $55,800
  • Nova Scotia, $55,100
  • New Brunswick, $55,000
  • Quebec, $57,300
  • Ontario, $66,200
  • Manitoba, $62,400
  • Saskatchewan, $69,900
  • Alberta, $77,800
  • British Columbia, $67,200

Median after-tax income was stable in all provinces, except for Saskatchewan (up 7.5 per cent) and New Brunswick (up 3.2 per cent) where non-senior families saw gains.

The median after-tax income for single people was $25,500, which was approximately the same as the year before.

Median transfers from government to families were up by nearly one-third in 2009 to $6,200.

StatsCan said employment insurance benefits were responsible for the bulk of those transfers, with 20 per cent more families in need of assistance that year.

The need for EI benefits was even higher among single people, with the total number of unattached recipients increasing by 29 per cent in 2009.

All in all, 86 per cent of families and 79 per cent of people not living in families got some sort of government transfer in 2009.

Nearly one in 10 Canadians was living below the poverty line in 2009, a level that was virtually the same as in the previous year.

With files from The Canadian Press