WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The economic recession thatofficially ended in 2009 pummeled people's earnings in manyU.S. states, with the Census reporting on Tuesday that thestate of Mississippi experienced some of the worst problemswith both income and poverty of all the states that year.

Mississippi residents earned the lowest incomes in theUnited States, with the median income dropping to $36,646 in2009 from $37,749 in 2008. By comparison, the national medianincome in the United States was $50,221 in 2009.

Altogether, median household incomes were lower than theU.S. median in 29 states and higher in 20 states and theDistrict of Columbia, the Census said. Maryland had the highestmedian income in the country in 2009 at $69,272.

The recession that officially began in 2007 appeared tolimit income growth in most U.S. states. Only North Dakota sawits median income increase from 2008, by 5.1 percent to$45,497. Throughout the recession, North Dakota has had thelowest unemployment rate among the states.

Real median household income decreased over the year in 34states, the Census said, and was relatively the same in 15states and the District of Columbia.

The Census also indexed income inequality, looking for howincome is distributed within a state.

Washington, D.C. had the largest gap between rich and poorin 2009, along with the territory of Puerto Rico. New York hadthe biggest income gap of the states, according to the Censusdata, followed by Connecticut. Alaska had the smallest incomeinequality, followed by Utah.

Still, Mississippi had the highest poverty rate in thecountry in 2009, with 21.9 percent of its population livingbelow the poverty line.

Only five states had poverty rates of less than 10 percentin 2009 -- Alaska, Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire and NewJersey. The national poverty rate was 14.3 percent. (Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by James Dalgleish)