The Census Bureau on Thursday said the number of poor people had climbed 1.3 million to 35.9 million in 2003, pushing up the poverty rate to 12.5% from 12.1%.
It is the third year in a row that poverty has increased in the US. The poverty threshold is $18,810 dollars annually for a family of four or $9393 for a single person.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry seized on the survey figures to lash out at President George Bush’s economic record.
"Today confirms the failure of President Bush’s policies for all Americans," Kerry said. "While George Bush tries to convince America’s families that we are turning the corner, slogans and empty rhetoric can’t hide the real story".
The census survey showed an even bleaker picture among children, with more than one in six of those under the age of 18 living in poverty. The number of children living in poverty rose to 12.9 million from 12.1 million, pushing up their poverty rate to 17.6% from 16.7%.
"This increase in child poverty is likely related to the increase in poverty for single-parent families," said Daniel Weinberg, the Census Bureau’s chief of housing and household economic statistics.
Among minorities, only Asians experienced a poverty rate increase, from 10% in 2002 to 11.8% in 2003.
The rate remained high among the country’s larger minorities, with about one in four blacks and 22.5% of Hispanics living in poverty.
The rate among whites stayed at about 8%.
Meanwhile, the number of people without health insurance climbed 1.4 million to 45.0 million in 2003, lifting the no-coverage rate to 15.6% from 15.2%.