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Measuring the Economy Under Donald Trump and Joe Biden
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Measuring the Economy Under Donald Trump and Joe Biden

A scorecard circulating on social media uses old data.

A sign displays fuel prices at a gas station in Vienna, Virginia, on March 12, 2024. (Photo by Liu Jie/Xinhua via Getty Images)

An image being shared widely across Facebook, Instagram, and X (formerly Twitter) compares certain measures of the U.S. economy on the final day of Donald Trump’s presidency to current numbers. The image presents eight metrics such as the inflation rate, average rent prices, and real average hourly earnings to draw a contrast between the economy under Trump and under the Biden administration. “Just in case you’re sitting on the fence,” reads the text above the image in many of the posts.

The image appears to originate from Wisconsin Rep. Tom Tiffany, who first posted it on X in September 2022.

While most of the numbers were relatively accurate when the image was first posted, the image that has spread widely again in recent days doesn’t reflect the current state of the U.S. economy. Posters do not acknowledge that much of the data is outdated.

A similar post that appears to have been created more recently and based on Rep. Tiffany’s original is also circulating widely online, but most of its data also is inaccurate.

Here is a breakdown of the eight metrics being used and where the Trump and Biden administrations actually stand, according to the most recent data.

Inflation Rate

In January 2021—the final month of Donald Trump’s presidency—the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by a 1.4 percent annualized rate, compared to 3.2 percent in February 2024 under the Biden administration. However, viewing the annualized inflation rate in any given month is not necessarily the best measure of comparison for longer periods. Between Trump taking office in January 2017 and his departure in January 2021, the U.S. experienced a cumulative inflation rate—meaning the total percentage change in CPI during the period—of approximately 7.76 percent. The U.S. has seen significantly higher inflation rates since Joe Biden took office: CPI rose by a cumulative 18.49 percent between January 2021 and February 2024. This overall rise in prices under the Biden administration—a result of inflationary pressures during his presidency—can be seen in other metrics referenced in the two viral posts.

Average Gas Prices

In January 2021, the average retail gasoline price in the U.S. was $2.42. By February 2024, that average had risen to $3.33, representing a 38 percent increase. Average gas prices actually decreased by 1.6 percent overall during Trump’s presidency, some of which is attributable to the drop in demand and sharp rise in surpluses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

30-Year Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rates, which are closely tied to the Federal Funds Rate, also were lower on average during the Trump administration than under Biden. On the final day of the Trump presidency, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was approximately 2.84 percent. On March 26, 2024, the same rate sat at approximately 6.75 percent.

Average Rent

The government does not track an average nationwide rent price, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics measures shelter as a component of the CPI, which can be used to calculate the total approximate change in average housing costs over any given period. According to this data, shelter prices rose by approximately 11.8 percent during Trump’s four years in office while shelter prices have increased by 20 percent thus far during Biden’s term.

Independent research by the real estate firm Rent Group found a similar rise. According to their data on median monthly rents across the country, median rents rose 21 percent from approximately $1,639 per month in January 2021 to $1,981 in February 2024.

Nasdaq

The Nasdaq composite—a stock market index composed of more than 3,000 stocks listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market—is one of the most common measures of the performance of U.S. equity markets alongside the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average. The Nasdaq rose from 5,540.08 to 13,197.18 during the Trump administration, an increase of 138.2 percent. Under Biden, the same index has risen from 13,197.18 on the day of his inauguration to 16,315.70 as of close of market on March 26, 2024, a rise of 24 percent.

Grocery Prices

The increase in grocery prices under each president can be measured similarly to the rise in shelter costs by using a component of the CPI—this time its Food at Home average. From January 2017 to January 2021, the average price of food eaten at home in the U.S. rose by 6.5 percent. Between Biden taking office in January 2021 and the metric’s most recent data in February 2024, this same number has risen by 21 percent.

Electricity Prices

The Household Energy component of CPI tracks energy prices. During Trump’s time in office, this cost measure rose by 4.2 percent. So far under Biden, it has increased by approximately 30 percent.

Real Average Hourly Earnings

The final metric included in both posts is the change in real average hourly earnings. In the month that Trump took office, real average hourly earnings in the U.S. (in constant 1982-1984 dollars) were $10.65, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By Trump’s final month in office, this number had increased to $11.43, a 7.3 percent rise. In February 2024, real average hourly earnings had decreased to $11.11, representing an approximate 2.8 percent overall decrease under Biden.

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Alex Demas is a fact checker at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in England as a financial journalist and earned his MA in Political Economy at King's College London. When not heroically combating misinformation online, Alex can be found mixing cocktails, watching his beloved soccer team Aston Villa lose a match, or attempting to pet stray cats.