Here’s how the United States has fared since President Joe Biden took office two years ago:
- The economy added 10.7 million jobs under Biden, putting the total 1.2 million higher than before the pandemic.
- The unemployment rate dropped back to 3.5%; unfilled job openings surged, with over 1.7 for every unemployed jobseeker.
- Inflation roared back to the highest level in over 40 years before slowing markedly in late 2022. Overall, consumer prices are up nearly 14%. Gasoline is up 39.1%.
- Wages rose briskly, by 9.5%. But after adjusting for inflation, “real” weekly earnings went down 4.1%.
- The number of people without health insurance went down by 4.2 million.
- The trade deficit for 2022 is still on pace to set a new record.
- Economic growth has bounced back after two consecutive quarters of negative growth, and corporate profits reached a new high.
- Crude oil production has increased over 4%, and crude oil imports are up 7.5%.
- Gun purchases, as measured by background checks for firearm sales, declined for the second consecutive year.
- The number of people receiving federal food assistance has increased slightly.
- The publicly held debt is up 13.7%, even as annual deficits have declined.
- Apprehensions of those trying to illegally cross the southwest border into the U.S. are up 351% for the past 12 months, compared with President Donald Trump’s last year in office.
- Stocks performed poorly. The S&P 500-stock index inched up 3.1%.
This is our fifth edition of “Biden’s Numbers,” which we first posted in January 2022 and updated on April 14, July 21 and Oct. 14. It is designed to provide an accurate statistical measure of how the U.S. has fared under Biden. We’ll continue to publish new editions with fresh data on a quarterly basis.
As we said when we posted “Obama’s Numbers” and “Trump’s Numbers,” opinions will differ on how much credit or blame any president deserves for things that happen during his time in office. We make no judgment on that.
Jobs and Unemployment
The number of people with jobs has increased dramatically since Biden took office, far surpassing pre-pandemic levels.
Employment — The U.S. economy added 10,726,000 jobs between Biden’s inauguration and December, the latest month for which data are available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The December figure is 1,239,000 higher than the February 2020 peak of employment before COVID-19 forced massive shutdowns and layoffs.
One major category of jobs is still lagging, however. Government employment is still 438,000 jobs short of the pre-pandemic peak — including 248,000 public school teachers and other local education workers.
Unemployment — The unemployment rate fell from 6.3% at the time Biden took office to 3.5% in December — a decline of 2.8 percentage points. The current rate is exactly where it was in the months just before the pandemic.
That’s uncommonly low. Since 1948, when BLS began keeping records, the jobless rate has been at or below 3.5% for only 59 months, or 6.6% of the time. Three of those months were in 2022 and three others were during the Trump years, just before the pandemic. Before that, the rate hadn’t been that low since the 1960s.
Job Openings — The number of unfilled job openings soared to a record of nearly 11.9 million during Biden’s first 14 months in office, but then declined after the Federal Reserve began a steep series of interest-rate increases aimed at cooling the economy to bring down price inflation.
The number had slipped down to just 10.5 million on the last business day of November, the most recent month on record. That’s still an increase of over 3.2 million openings — or nearly 45% — during Biden’s time.
In November, there was an average of over 1.7 jobs for every unemployed job seeker. When Biden took office, there were more job seekers than openings.
The number of job openings in December is set to be released Feb. 1.
Labor Force Participation — One reason many job openings go unfilled is that millions of Americans left the workforce during the pandemic and haven’t returned. The labor force participation rate (the percentage of the total population over age 16 that is either employed or actively seeking work) has inched up slightly during Biden’s time, from 61.3% in January 2021 to 62.3% in December.
That’s an increase of only 1 percentage point, and still leaves the rate well below the pre-pandemic level of 63.3% for February 2020.
The rate peaked at 67.3% more than two decades ago, during the first four months of 2000. Even before the pandemic economists predicted further declines due largely to the aging population. The most recent 10-year economic projection by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts the rate will rise only to 62.4% by the middle of this year — still well below the pre-pandemic level — then resume its long-term slide and drop to 61.4% by the end of 2032.
Manufacturing Jobs — During the presidential campaign, Biden promised he had a plan to create a million new manufacturing jobs — and whether it’s his doing or not, the number is rising briskly.
As of December, the U.S. added 750,000 manufacturing jobs during Biden’s time, a 6.2% increase in the space of 23 months, according to BLS. Furthermore, the December total is 149,000, or 1.2% above the number of manufacturing jobs in February 2020, before the pandemic forced plant closures and layoffs.
During Trump’s four years, the economy lost 182,000 manufacturing jobs, or 1.4%, largely due to the pandemic.
Wages and Inflation
CPI — Inflation came roaring back under Biden, but has slowed dramatically in the most recent six months.
Overall, during his first 23 months in office the Consumer Price Index rose 13.7%.
It was for a time the worst inflation in decades. The 12 months ending last June saw a 9.1% increase in the CPI (before seasonal adjustment), which the Bureau of Labor Statistics said was the biggest such increase since the 12 months ending in November 1981.
But the worst may now be over. The CPI rose 5.4% in the first half of last year, but only 0.9% in the last half. In December, the CPI actually declined slightly, by 0.1%. The BLS measure of gasoline prices plunged 27.5% in the last half of 2022 and went down 9.4% in December alone.
Gasoline Prices — The price of gasoline has gyrated wildly under Biden.
During the first 57 weeks of his administration, the national average price of regular gasoline at the pump rose by $1.15 (or 48.4%) as motorists resumed travel and the economy bounced back after pandemic lockdowns.
Then Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, and the price shot up by another $1.48 per gallon in just 16 weeks as world oil markets were disrupted by the West’s efforts to punish Russia, the world’s third-largest oil producer (after the U.S. and Saudi Arabia). Gasoline prices peaked briefly at a record high of just over $5 per gallon in the week ending June 13.
Over the next six months the price drifted down to a low of $3.09 the week ending Dec. 26, and now has gone up again to $3.31 the week ending Jan. 16, the most recent on record.
So after all the ups and downs, the most recent price is 93 cents higher than in the week before Biden took office, an increase of 39.1%
Prices are expected to rise further this year. In its most recent Short-Term Energy Outlook, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicted that gasoline prices would average $3.32 a gallon in 2023.
Wages — Wages also have gone up under Biden, but not as fast as prices.
Average weekly earnings for rank-and-file workers went up 9.5% during Biden’s first 23 months in office, according to monthly figures compiled by the BLS. Those production and nonsupervisory workers make up 81% of all employees in the private sector.
But inflation ate up all that gain and more. What are called “real” weekly earnings, adjusted for inflation and measured in dollars valued at their average level in 1982-84, actually declined 4.1% during that time.
But recently real wages have been rising as inflation has moderated. During the last half of 2022, real weekly earnings rose 1.3%.
The U.S. economy has improved since our last report.
The nation’s economy posted a surprisingly strong third quarter in 2022 after two straight quarters of contraction, and it appears that the growth continued in the fourth quarter before slowing again in 2023.
While concerns remain about a pending recession, some forecast it will be relatively mild or may not happen at all.
The real gross domestic product, which accounts for inflation, expanded at an annual rate of 3.2% in the third quarter of 2022 after contracting at an annual rate of 1.6% in the first quarter and 0.6% in the second quarter, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The BEA’s first official estimate for the fourth quarter of 2022 won’t be released until Jan. 26. But the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s “GDP Now” estimated that, as of Jan. 20, the economy increased at an annual rate of 3.5% in the fourth quarter.
For the year, the most recent median forecast of the Federal Reserve Board members and Federal Reserve Bank presidents issued on Dec. 14 projected 0.5% growth for all of 2022. The Summary of Economic Projections released by the Fed at its Dec. 14 meeting also showed the central bank expected a real GDP gain of 0.5% in 2023 and 1.6% in 2024.
A majority of U.S. CEOs surveyed by The Conference Board expect a recession in 2023, although they anticipate it will be relatively mild.
“Ninety-eight percent of CEOs in the U.S. think there is going to be a recession — but it’s going to be short and shallow,” Dana Peterson, the Conference Board’s chief economist, told the Wall Street Journal.
Some economists even say a downturn isn’t inevitable, as the Associated Press reported.
Under Biden, corporate profits have reached new heights, although the most recent quarter showed a leveling off.
After-tax corporate profits set a record at $2.75 trillion in 2021. During the third quarter of 2022, corporate profits hit an annual rate of nearly $2.9 trillion — which was a slight dip from the $3 trillion record set in the previous quarter, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
“Profits decreased less than 0.1 percent in the third quarter after increasing 4.6 percent in the second quarter,” the BEA said in a Dec. 22 release.
Even with a slight dip, the current quarterly rate is 37% higher than the full-year figure for 2020, the year before Biden took office, as estimated by the BEA. (See line 45.)
Under Biden, high inflation has weakened consumer confidence in the economy, although there has been a slight uptick since our last report.
The University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers reported that its preliminary monthly Index of Consumer Sentiment for January was 64.6. That’s slightly better than our last report – when the index was 58.6 in September — and significantly higher than a record low of 50 in June. But it’s still 14.4 points lower than it was when Biden took office in January 2021.
Joanne W. Hsu, director of the Surveys of Consumers, attributed the recent rise to “higher incomes and easing inflation.”
“Consumer sentiment remained low from a historical perspective but continued lifting for the second consecutive month, rising 8% above December and reaching about 4% below a year ago,” Hsu said in a statement on the preliminary survey results for January. “Current assessments of personal finances surged 16% to its highest reading in eight months on the basis of higher incomes and easing inflation.”
Stock market gains that were made in Biden’s first year were all but wiped out in 2022 — which was the worst year for Wall Street since 2008.
Under the past two presidents, the stock markets went steadily up. The S&P 500-stock index rose 166% over the eight years Obama was in office, and it climbed another 67.8% during Trump’s four years.
But since Biden took office, the S&P 500 is up a bare 3.1% as of the close of the market on Jan. 20.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which is made up of 30 large corporations, did somewhat better, eking out a 7.0% gain in the two years since he took office.
But the NASDAQ composite index, made up of more than 3,000 companies including many in the technology sector that performed particularly poorly in 2022, fell sharply — down 17.2% since Biden took office.
Early release figures from the National Health Interview Survey show a drop in the number and percentage of people who lacked health insurance during Biden’s time in office. The latest figures show that 27.4 million people, or 8.3% of the population, were uninsured at the time they were interviewed in the first six months of 2022, compared with 31.6 million people, or 9.7%, who were uninsured in 2020, the year before Biden was sworn in.
That’s a decrease of 4.2 million people, or 1.4 percentage points.
The NHIS is a program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the data collection is performed by the Census Bureau in face-to-face interviews.
From 2020 to 2021, the NHIS found a drop in the number of uninsured people of just 1.6 million, which it said was not a significant difference. But there was a more sizable decline in the first six months of 2022.
The percentage of Americans under age 65 who had insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act exchanges, such as HealthCare.gov, went up from 3.8% in 2020 to 4.3% in 2021, a figure that held steady for the first six months of 2022.
The Census Bureau’s annual report, which measures those who lacked insurance for the entire year, won’t be available until this fall.
The number of apprehensions of people trying to enter the U.S. illegally at the southwest border continues to hover near historic highs.
To even out the seasonal changes in border crossings, our measure compares the most recent 12 months on record with the year prior to a president taking office. And for the past 12 months ending in November, the latest figures available, apprehensions totaled 2,291,433, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That’s 351% higher than during Trump’s last year in office.
Since our last report in October, apprehensions rose, after a slight dip in the summer months. The number of apprehensions in September, October and November averaged just over 206,000 per month. That’s lower than the peak of 241,136 in May of last year, but looking at the entirety of Biden’s time in office, apprehensions have never been higher in history, dating back to at least 1925.
Facing heightened criticism from Republicans, Biden made his first trip to the U.S.-Mexico border as president on Jan. 8 with a four-hour visit to El Paso. Ahead of the trip, Biden spoke to reporters about border security and enforcement, acknowledging that it was “a complicated issue.”
After faulting congressional Republicans for failing to support “a comprehensive immigration plan to fix the system completely” (although, as we wrote, the sweeping immigration plan Biden proposed on his first day in office was also opposed by some Democrats and never came up for a vote), Biden announced several executive actions he was taking “to stiffen enforcement for those who try to come without a legal right to stay, and to put in place a faster process — I emphasize a ‘faster process’ — to decide a claim of asylum.”
Among the initiatives in Biden’s plan is expanding the “parole” process for Venezuelans to Nicaraguans, Haitians and Cubans, allowing applicants a two-year work permit if they have a friend or relative in the U.S. sponsor them and they pass a background check. The plan also includes adding more asylum officers and immigration judges to process asylum claims more quickly.
Biden has sought to terminate Title 42, a public health law invoked in response to the pandemic in March 2020 that allowed border officials to immediately return many of those caught trying to enter the country illegally. The Supreme Court in December extended the policy for at least two more months until the court hears arguments on the case in February.
Once Title 42 ends, Biden said, migrants will have to use an app and book an appointment to schedule an interview on their asylum claims, but they will have to wait outside the country until then. Those who do not go through proper channels will be expelled and will be subject to a five-year ban on reentry.
The U.S. imported almost $965.2 billion more in goods and services than it exported over the last 12 months through November, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis figures published this month. The international trade deficit in that period was $311.2 billion higher, or about 47.6% more, than in 2020.
As of November, the goods and services deficit had increased $120.1 billion from the same 11-month period in 2021 — putting the U.S. on pace to exceed the record trade deficit from the previous year.
Oil Production and Imports
U.S. crude oil production averaged roughly 11.79 million barrels per day during Biden’s most recent 12 months in office (ending in October), according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data published in late December. That was over 4% higher than the average daily amount of crude oil produced in 2020.
In its Short-Term Energy Outlook for January, the EIA projected that crude oil production averaged 11.86 million barrels per day in 2022, which would be the highest average since 2019. The EIA expects crude oil production to increase to 12.41 millions barrels per day in 2023, which would be a new record.
As for crude oil imports in Biden’s last 12 months, the U.S. brought in about 6.32 million barrels per day on average. That’s up more than 7.5% from average daily imports in 2020.
There was no change in U.S. carbon emissions since our last quarterly update.
In the most recent 12 months on record (ending in September), there still were almost 4.95 billion metric tons of emissions from the consumption of coal, natural gas and various petroleum products, according to the EIA. That’s over 8% more than the 4.58 billion metric tons that were emitted in 2020 — but lower than about 5.15 billion metric tons emitted in 2019.
The EIA forecasts that the U.S. will have 4.83 billion metric tons of energy-related emissions in 2023, which would be a decline of over 3% from the projected total of 4.99 billion metric tons emitted in 2022.
After spiking at the start of the pandemic, gun purchases appear to have slowed for the second consecutive year, based on figures from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Since the federal government doesn’t collect data on gun sales, the NSSF, a gun industry trade group, estimates gun sales by tracking the number of background checks for firearm sales based on the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. The NSSF-adjusted figures exclude background checks unrelated to sales, such as those required for concealed-carry permits.
Earlier this month, NSSF reported that the adjusted NICS total for background checks in 2022 was about 16.43 million. That’s the third highest annual total going back to 2000 — but it’s 11.3% lower than in 2021 and 22.1% below 2020, the current one-year record, with almost 21.1 million such background checks.
In 2019, before the pandemic, there were nearly 13.2 million.
“Though not a direct correlation to firearms sales, the NSSF-adjusted NICS data provide an additional picture of current market conditions,” the NSSF said in a statement about the numbers.
The Major Cities Chiefs Association found the number of murders in 70 large U.S. cities went down by 4.3% in the first nine months of 2022, compared with the same time period in 2021. Murders declined from 7,184 to 6,877.
The drop follows an increase in homicides of 6.2% from 2020, the year before Biden became president, to 2021, according to the same group, and a 33.4% increase from 2019 to 2020, with the latter figure from 67 law enforcement agencies.
The Major Cities Chiefs Association’s most recent report also shows a 3.4% decline in the number of rapes, an 11% increase in robberies and a 1.3% increase in aggravated assaults for the first nine months of last year.
FBI data on nationwide crime for 2022 won’t be released until the fall. As we reported in our last Biden’s Numbers update, the FBI estimated that “violent and property crime remained consistent between 2020 and 2021.” Specifically, the FBI determined violent crimes fell by 1%, while murders increased by 4.3%, but the agency said the figures “are not considered statistically significant.”
The estimates also were based on data from fewer local law enforcement agencies than usual, since the FBI had transitioned to a new system — yet some police departments, including those in New York City and Los Angeles, hadn’t done so.
Another independent analysis by AH Datalytics, an organization run by criminal justice data analysts, shows a 4.8% decline in murders from late 2021 to late 2022, as of Jan. 20. The group compiles publicly available information from more than 90 large law enforcement agencies nationwide, with most agencies reporting figures through the end of November or December.
Debts and Deficits
Debt — In the three months since our last update, the public debt, which excludes money the government owes itself, increased by over $313 billion to $24.6 trillion, as of Jan. 19. The public debt is now 13.7% higher than it was when Biden took office.
Deficits — So far, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the budget deficit for fiscal year 2023 is ahead of where it was at this point in fiscal 2022, when the Treasury Department said the deficit for the full fiscal cycle was $1.375 trillion.
Through the first three months of the current fiscal year (October to December), the deficit was $418 billion, or “$41 billion more than the shortfall recorded during the same period last year,” the CBO said in its most recent Monthly Budget Review. The nonpartisan budget agency expects in February to release its Budget and Economic Outlook, with deficit projections for the full fiscal year.
The number of people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, has gone up each month since our last update.
As of October, more than 42.3 million people were receiving food assistance. That’s over 1.4 million more people than in June, and it’s an increase of 0.4%, or over 166,000 people, from January 2021, when Biden became president. The figures come from the Department of Agriculture’s latest data.
Under Biden, SNAP enrollment was as low as 40.8 million in August and September 2021. Trump’s lowest month was February 2020, when the program had 36.9 million participants.
Home Prices & Homeownership
Home Prices — With the Federal Reserve continuing to raise rates, the once red-hot housing market has cooled off.
The median price of an existing, single-family home sold in November was $376,700 — down from the August preliminary price ($396,300) that we used in our last report, according to the National Association of Realtors. (The final August number was even higher at $398,800.)
The decline in home sales and prices comes as the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark rate seven times last year in an effort to slow inflation. As a result, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.33% as of Jan. 12 – up from 3.45% a year ago, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac.
Even so, the November median price was 22.3% higher than it had been in January 2021, when Biden took office. Home prices have been rising for about a decade, in large part because of a high demand and relatively low inventory, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.
Homeownership — Homeownership rates have remained virtually unchanged under Biden.
The homeownership rate, which the Census Bureau measures as the percentage of occupied housing units that are owner-occupied, was 66% in the third quarter of 2022 — just a shade over the 65.8% rate during Trump’s last quarter in office. (Usual word of caution: The bureau warns against making comparisons with the fourth quarter of 2020, because of pandemic-related restrictions on in-person data collection.)
The rate peaked under Trump in the second quarter of 2020 at 67.9%. The highest homeownership rate on record was 69.2% in 2004, when George W. Bush was president.
Biden has made only incremental progress toward fulfilling his ambitious campaign promise to accept up to 125,000 refugees into the United States each year.
On Sept. 27, the Biden administration set the cap on refugee admissions for fiscal year 2023 at 125,000 – just as it did in fiscal year 2022. To achieve the president’s goal, the administration would have to admit an average of 10,417 refugees per month.
However, in fiscal year 2022, the administration accepted only 25,465 refugees, or 2,122 per month, according to State Department data. In the first three months of fiscal year 2023, which began Oct. 1, the administration welcomed 6,750 refugees, or 2,250 per month. (See “Refugee Admissions Report” for monthly data from 2000 through 2023.)
Overall, the U.S. has admitted 42,223 refugees in Biden’s first full 23 months in office, or 1,836 refugees per month, the data show. That’s 0.5% less than the 1,845 monthly average during the four years under Trump, who significantly reduced the admission of refugees. (For both presidents, our monthly averages include only full months in office, excluding the month of January 2017 and January 2021, when administrations overlapped.)
In its report to Congress for fiscal year 2023, the State Department said “we are beginning to make progress towards fulfilling President Biden’s ambitious admissions target.” In our last report, we noted that the U.S. ended fiscal year 2022 by admitting more than 5,500 refugees in September — the highest monthly amount since January 2017.
But the Biden administration, so far, has been unable to sustain that level of admission in the new fiscal year.
Supreme Court — Biden has won confirmation for one Supreme Court nominee, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. Trump had won confirmation for two by this point in his tenure: Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Justice Jackson replaced retired Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who was appointed by then-President Bill Clinton and served nearly three decades.
District Court — Biden has won confirmation for 68 District Court judges. At the same point in Trump’s term, 53 nominees had been confirmed.
There were 87 federal court vacancies, with 23 nominees pending, as of Jan. 20.
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