Biden: Fact-checking claims about US economic progress

Biden: Fact-checking claims about US economic progress

By Reality Check team
BBC News

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Image source, AFP
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President Biden says there’s been major progress on the economy

President Joe Biden says the US has made “historic progress” on the economy in the last 10 months.

In a speech before Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday in the US, he also talked about price rises and supply chain problems.

We have been looking into some of Mr Biden’s claims.

‘We’re experiencing the strongest economic recovery in the world’

Since shrinking by more than 30% in the first six months of 2020, the US economy has recorded a strong bounceback and returned to above pre-pandemic levels

China has also posted strong economic growth, but overall its economy didn’t contract last year – meaning it had less damage to recover compared with the US.

Under Mr Biden, the US economy has continued to grow this year, but a large part of the recovery happened under former president Donald Trump.

‘Our economy has created a record 5.6 million jobs since I became president’

Mr Biden became president on 20 January this year.

From that month until October (the latest available data), the US economy added 5,583,000 jobs, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This is the highest number of jobs created in the first 10 months of any presidency since records began in 1939.

But this job growth comes from a low base point, given that in April last year, unemployment hit its highest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

More than 22 million jobs were lost in the space of two months because of the impact of coronavirus.

‘Wages are rising’

Workers’ wages in the US are up 4.9% this October compared with the same time last year.

But the cost of living is also going up, meaning more of the money people earn is spent on everyday goods, in particular food and fuel.

‘This is a problem not just here…but around the world. The price of gasoline has reached record levels recently in Europe and in Asia…’

“The price of gas in America, on average, is $3.40 (£2.55) a gallon,” said Mr Biden, comparing it with France (about $7) and Japan (about $5.50) at the end of October.

But there are countries where fuel prices are lower, such as Russia (about $2.5 a gallon) and some of the other major oil producers like Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Iraq and the UAE.

And is a comparison between the US and France that relevant, given that in Europe there are significantly higher taxes on both petrol and diesel?

Image source, Reuters
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Taxes on fuel in the US are lower than in European countries

According to the Washington-based Tax Foundation think tank, the average excise duty imposed on a gallon of petrol in the EU and UK was $2.40 in July this year.

That’s just one tax – there are also other taxes in European countries.

The US federal tax on petrol was $0.18 per gallon and the average of all state taxes was $0.30, so much lower than in Europe.

‘In the past three weeks, the number of containers sitting on docks, blocking movement, are down by 33%’

Mr Biden is talking about shipping containers coming into US ports and sitting on docksides because they are not being moved out fast enough.

This is because of shortages of truck drivers, and other supply chain issues which have created a backlog.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,

Containers piled up at Los Angeles port in late October

However, it is worth saying there were a record 84 ships waiting offshore in California on 6 November.

Gene Seroka, Los Angeles port executive director, was quoted as saying last week that there were also increasing numbers of empty containers left in the port, up by 18% in only a few weeks.

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