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- Inflation-adjusted wages have increased if you compare today’s level with either pre-pandemic levels — when Joe Biden was not yet president — or with one year ago.
- But during the entirety of Biden’s presidency — since his January 2021 inauguration — inflation-adjusted wages have not increased.
After several favorable economic data points recently were released, President Joe Biden has leaned into "Bidenomics" as an asset for his 2024 reelection campaign.
In a July 28 speech in Maine, Biden touted the nation’s wage growth during his tenure.
"Yesterday, we learned the economy grew faster than expected last quarter," Biden said. "And this morning, we saw data showing that last month the annual rate of inflation continued to decline. So, inflation is now at its lowest point in two years. And wages are up after being adjusted for inflation."
Is he right? It depends on when you start the clock.
The White House told PolitiFact that Biden was comparing today’s inflation-adjusted wages with their level in two time periods: before the COVID-19 pandemic and one year ago.
When measuring against those specific periods, Biden’s statement is accurate. But when considering his entire presidency, the opposite is true — inflation-adjusted wages have not risen.
Let’s unpack the numbers.
The White House offered one comparison with pre-pandemic wage and inflation levels, using January 2020 data.
From January 2020 to June 2023 — the most recent month with data available — wages rose by 18% while inflation rose by 17%. The winner: wages.
Meanwhile, the other comparison the White House drew was to the past year.
Since June 2022, wages rose by 3.8%, compared with inflation rising by 3.1%. Wages win again.
But Biden and the White House cherry-picked two periods with favorable data — and ignored the duration of his presidency, which is arguably the most logical time frame for judging "Bidenomics."
Comparing today’s wage and inflation data with January 2021 gives the opposite result: Inflation outpaces wages.
Since January 2021, wages have risen by 12%, compared with inflation rising by nearly 16%.
Comparing current inflation-adjusted wages with those from before the pandemic is less useful for judging the economy on Biden’s watch, because one-third of the data reflects the time when Donald Trump was president.
And a president’s role in influencing economic outcomes is limited. Global factors, such as wars and oil shocks, can shift economic outcomes, and for battling inflation, the Federal Reserve is the primary policy lever.
Biden said, "Wages are up after being adjusted for inflation."
Wages have outpaced inflation if you compare today’s level with pre-pandemic levels — including a portion of time when Biden was not yet president — and with one year ago.
But for the most obvious period for judging Biden’s presidency — since he was inaugurated — inflation-adjusted wages have not increased.
The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details. We rate it Half True.
President Joe Biden, speech in Maine, July 28, 2023
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, "Consumer price index for all urban consumers: all items in U.S. city average," accessed Aug. 2, 2023
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, "Average hourly earnings of all employees, total private," accessed Aug. 2, 2023
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