Not all the news is bad these days. Here at home, three separate but related economic reports released this month give us hope for a more prosperous future: The poverty rate is down, unemployment is down and the number of people without health insurance is at a record low. And as the stock market continues to break records, there is some good news for Wall Street too.

Sabrina Tavernise, writing for The New York Times, reported on the National Health Interview Survey last week. The survey found that, "the number of Americans without health insurance had declined substantially in the first quarter of this year, the first federal measure of the number of uninsured Americans since the Affordable Care Act."

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According to the report, the nation's uninsured rate dropped from 16 percent in 2010 to about 13 percent at the time of the survey. "The number of uninsured Americans fell by about 8 percent to 41 million people in the first quarter of this year, compared with 2013, a drop that represented about 3.8 million people and that roughly matched what experts were expecting based on polling by private groups, like Gallup," according to the report.

The survey interviewed 27,000 Americans. A similar survey by Gallup interviewed 45,000 individuals. These reports, according to Tavernise, "show that there were 8 million to 10 million fewer uninsured" Americans during the survey period (since the ACA). According to the report, "The most significant decline in the share of the uninsured was among 19- to 25-year-olds, 21 percent of whom were uninsured in the first quarter, down from 27 percent in 2013."

The drop in uninsured Americans was especially strong in states that expanded Medicaid coverage. According to the survey, states that expanded Medicaid coverage showed a 15.7 percent uninsured rate, compared to an uninsured rate of 21.5 percent in states that refuse to expand their Medicaid coverage.

In the second piece of good news, the Census Bureau published its 2014 annual report on poverty in America and found that the poverty rate had declined from between 2012 and 2013. The decline, from 15 percent in 2012 to 14.5 percent in 2013, represented the first time since 2006 that the rate had decreased. The data were especially impressive for children. According to the report, "The poverty rate for children under 18 declined last year for the first time since 2000" and "the number of children in poverty fell by 1.4 million, to 14.7 million."

To put the 14.5 percent poverty rate in perspective, the poverty rate reached 19 percent 50 years ago in 1963. However, the rate is still higher than the all-time low of 11.1 percent in the 1970s.

According to the Census Bureau report, "The number of men working full-time and year-round increased by 1.8 million last year, and the number of women working full-time throughout the year increased by 1 million."

Speaking of employment, according to the Labor Department, the unemployment rate dropped to 6.1 percent in August. Interesting, and related to the first point regarding the decreasing number of uninsured Americans, the largest growth in jobs is the health care sector. This is likely the result of The Affordable Care Act and the increase in the number of people able to seek medical care.

All three of these variables — poverty, employment, and health care availability — are related, of course. Each impacts the others. Employment affects poverty rates and people's ability to secure insurance coverage either through their employer or through their increased ability to afford insurance through the ACA. A person's ability to secure health insurance outside of their jobs through the ACA allows people to become more mobile and, thus, more employable.

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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