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The U.S. added more than 6.7 million jobs in 2021. That’s nearly 500,000 more than the 6.25 million projected near the start of the year by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The country is still about 2 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic level.
Economists say it’s always difficult to understand or quantify a president’s impact on the overall jobs picture.
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro delved into a litany of disagreements with President Joe Biden in a YouTube video he called "The Real State of the Union."
One claim that caught our eye in Shapiro’s response to Biden’s State of the Union was that Biden’s American Rescue Plan didn’t lead to a single job. In fact, Shapiro said, the United States added fewer jobs in 2021 than economists had predicted if Biden did absolutely nothing.
"And Joe Biden told you that his American Rescue Plan — his massive boondoggle stimulus plan — ‘created jobs. Lots of jobs.’ He said he created 6.5 million jobs. That is another lie," Shapiro said March 1. "There is no evidence Biden’s spending produced one job. Nonpartisan projections for job growth in 2021, not including that American Rescue Plan, showed higher job growth than Biden produced."
We wondered if Shapiro’s claims about U.S. jobs in Biden’s first year were really true. Did they end up lower than nonpartisan predictions?
Eric Quintanar, a writer and editor at the Daily Wire, which was founded by Shapiro, said Shapiro was referring to a February 2021 forecast from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The CBO estimated 6,252,000 new jobs would be added for the year. It did not factor in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which Biden signed into law on March 11, 2021, providing millions of Americans with a third stimulus check and extending enhanced weekly federal employment benefits. (Nor did it forecast the delta and omicron variants of COVID-19 and the economic impact they would have.)
When Shapiro delivered his "Real State of the Union," the Bureau of Labor Statistics totaled 6,665,000 jobs created in 2021. That includes revisions from earlier estimates for November and December.
Further revisions now show 6,743,000 new jobs created in all of 2021.
6,743,000 is more than 6,252,000 — 491,000 more. (The math only changes slightly if you measure from February 2021 through January 2022).
February’s jobs report showed another 678,000 jobs were created. A report from Moody’s Analytics suggested the economy is on track to recover all the jobs lost during the pandemic by the second quarter of 2022, something it said would have taken another year without Biden’s plan.
Either way, Shapiro said nonpartisan projections "showed higher job growth than Biden produced." And that’s not true.
"Did it create as many jobs as predicted? We don’t know yet. Predictions often fall short," said Kathleen Day, an author and lecturer at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. "But was it a complete bust? I don’t think people would say that either."
There are still 2.1 million fewer people employed through February 2022 as there were in February 2020 before the pandemic, labor statistics show. And some economists blame Biden’s rescue plan for increased inflation.
But Shapiro’s claim is based on outdated numbers. Quintanar of the Daily Wire pointed us to two articles to support Shapiro’s claim, but they were each written in January, and also used numbers before revisions were made by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Revisions in both directions for the prior two months have been common this year.)
The articles allege that Biden projected 10 million jobs, or 4 million jobs on top of the CBO’s projections. The Washington Post Fact Checker said Biden was touting a Moody’s projection from January 2021, which forecast 7.2 million jobs total if the plan was passed. Biden misspoke once when he said the "law alone" would create 4 million jobs.
Was the American Rescue Plan responsible for the higher-than-projected job numbers?
Most of the experts we spoke with said Shapiro is wrong that Biden didn’t create a single job, and it’s likely that Biden’s plan had some effect on job growth. One said the plan actually cost jobs because of enhanced unemployment benefits of $300 until early September. Several experts, even some who said Shapiro is wrong, said there is no real way to measure what effect the plan had.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s, told PolitiFact that Shapiro’s "statement is way off base."
Moody’s Analytics said in a Feb. 24 analysis, which he co-authored, that the American Rescue Plan was responsible for adding more than 4 million jobs in 2021, and he expected that the economy should recover all jobs lost during the pandemic in the second quarter of 2022.
The gross domestic product, or GDP, rose 5.7% in 2021, including 6.9% in the fourth quarter.
Dean Baker, an economist at the left-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research, said there was a huge surge in consumer spending and demand due to the rescue plan’s provisions.
"Given we had a huge increase in GDP in 2021 and a huge increase in jobs, saying the ARP didn't create jobs is like seeing a dead man with a bullet wound and a guy standing over him with a smoking pistol, and then saying we have no evidence the person was shot," said Baker, who called Shapiro’s claim "not serious."
Day called Shapiro's claim "negative magical thinking."
She said it will be a long time before we can measure the effects the stimulus plan had on job creation, but "it just doesn't make any sense that it would be zero."
"I don't think there’s any definitive data, one way or another," she said.
Gary Burtless, a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, also said Biden’s policies boosted job growth.
"However, I do not know what percentage of the 6.5 million employment expansion was caused by the government’s fiscal and monetary policies," Burtless said. "The percentage is almost certainly greater than 1%, however, which also means that Mr. Shapiro’s statement is almost certainly false."
Economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, former director of the CBO and chief economic policy adviser to John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, agrees that there’s no way to know for sure.
"The only genuine answer to that is to compare what went on in 2021 with what would have gone on if we didn’t have the American Rescue Plan," he said. "And we don’t actually see that and so you’re always comparing the actual to some presumed alternative. And we don’t know what that alternative is. And that’s just the reality of this kind of statement."
Casey Mulligan, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, who served as chief economist for the Council of Economic Advisers in the Trump administration, agrees with Shapiro, arguing that Biden’s plan actually reduced employment by adding weekly payments of $300 after more people had returned to work.
"For more than a century, at least, economies recovered quickly from their recessions without massive bonuses for unemployment," Mulligan said. "So you have to expect some recovery to have happened even if Biden had done nothing."
Trump’s CARES Act, signed into law in March 2020, also provided federal unemployment benefits of $600 a month in addition to what workers received from states through the end of July. The stimulus package he signed in December added an additional 11 weeks at $300 a month.
Biden’s plan, signed in March, extended the $300 benefit until Sept. 6, but 26 states ended the supplement as early as June, according to CNBC.
One study in August found just a small uptick in job gains among states that ended the benefits, CNBC reported. PolitiFact looked at this question back in May and determined there’s no clear evidence more generous unemployment benefits deterred people from taking jobs.
Shapiro said, "There is no evidence Biden’s spending produced one job. Nonpartisan projections for job growth in 2021, not including that American Rescue Plan, showed higher job growth than Biden produced."
Most experts we spoke with disagreed with Shapiro's assertion that the economy didn’t add any jobs from the American Rescue Plan, though several said that we can’t really know for sure. But Shapiro was wrong about 2021 jobs numbers underperforming projections made before the law was passed; the economy added more jobs than anticipated.
We rate the statement Mostly False.
UPDATE, March 17, 2022: The Daily Wire updated its transcript of Shapiro’s speech following publication of this fact-check to note the following: "The CBO originally estimated that 6,252,000 would be produced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported a 6,743,000 net change in jobs for all of 2021. This contradicts the claim that jobs growth claims were higher than what Biden produced."
The Daily Wire, "SHAPIRO: The Great American Renewal Begins When Their Control Of American Lives Ends," March 1, 2022
Ben Shapiro, YouTube, "Ben Shapiro Responds to Biden’s State of the Union Address," March 1, 2022
Phone interview with Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, March 3, 2022
Email interview with Dean Baker, co-founder of the liberal-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research, March 2, 2022
Phone interview with Kathleen Day, author and lecturer at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, March 2, 202
Email interview with Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, March 2, 2022
Email interview with Casey Mulligan, professor of economics at the University of Chicago, March 2, 2022
Email interview with Gary Burtless, senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, March 4, 2022
Email interview with Eric Quintanar, a writer and editor at the Daily Wire, March 7, 2022
CNN Business, "Biden sets first-year record with 6.6 million jobs added," Feb. 4, 2022
CNBC, "Biden signs $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, clearing way for stimulus checks, vaccine aid," March 11, 2021
CNBC, "Payrolls show surprisingly powerful gain of 467,000 in January despite omicron surge," Feb. 4, 2022
Moody’s Analytics, "Global Fiscal Policy in the Pandemic," Feb. 24, 2022
Moody’s Analytics, "The Biden Fiscal Rescue Package: Light on the Horizon," Jan. 15, 2021
Congressional Budget Office, "Additional Information About the Economic Outlook: 2021 to 2031," Feb. 2021
Congressional Budget Office, "An update to the budget and economic outlook: 2021 to 2031," July 2021
NBC News, "How real are the latest jobs numbers?" March 6, 2022
The New York Times, "To Juice the Economy, Biden Bets on the Poor," March 6, 2021
The New York Times, "A regional Fed analysis suggests Biden’s stimulus is temporarily stoking inflation," Oct. 29, 2021
St. Louis Fed, "Personal Consumption Expenditures" Jan. 2022
St. Louis Fed, "All employees total, nonfarm," March 2022
U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, "Nonfarm payroll employment up 273,000 in February 2020," March 10, 2020
U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, "Employment up by 467,000 in January 2022, down by 2.9 million since February 2020," Feb. 8, 2022
PolitiFact, "Fact-checking Joe Biden’s State of the Union claim on scale of job gains in 2021," March 1, 2022
U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, "Gross Domestic Product, Fourth Quarter and Year 2021 (Advance Estimate)," Jan. 27, 2022
The Balance, "Jobs Report and the Monthly Employment Growth Statistics," Feb. 7, 2022
The Washington Post, "Biden’s repeated invocation of ‘7 million jobs’ created by his economic plan," March 16, 2021
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