Stand up for the facts!
Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.
I would like to contribute
If Your Time is short
• Wages have outpaced inflation for the past two quarters. However, that increase is only beginning to compensate for the wages that were eaten away by inflation earlier in Biden’s presidency.
• During Biden’s two years in office, cumulative wage gains have been outpaced by inflation.
President Joe Biden on Jan. 12 faced reporter questions about the discovery of classified documents at his think tank’s office and his Delaware home. But he aimed instead to tout a positive development on an issue that has bedeviled his presidency: inflation.
"You know, and as inflation is coming down, take-home pay for workers is going up," Biden said. "Workers’ wages are higher now than they were seven months ago, adjusted for inflation."
Wage increases have outpaced inflation over the past two quarters. However, wages had fallen significantly behind inflation before that, and the recent improvements have not yet dug out of that hole.
Raw wages, unadjusted for inflation, have risen every quarter of Biden’s presidency, and generally at higher rates than wages rose under his predecessor, Donald Trump.
But once you adjust for inflation, many of these gains disappear. Real wages — that is, inflation-adjusted wages — fell or were unchanged during the first six quarters of Biden’s presidency.
In the past two quarters, however, real wages turned a corner.
During the third quarter of 2022, real wages increased at a roughly 10% annualized rate. (An annualized rate multiplies a monthly rate of increase by 12 to project that rise over a whole year.)
Although that real wages metric hasn’t been released for the fourth quarter of 2022, annualized raw wages rose by almost 13% in that quarter, as inflation increased by less than 2% over the same period.
So, for the past two quarters, wages have outpaced inflation. That’s the point the White House emphasized when we inquired for this article.
But by the time of this turnaround, wages had fallen into a big hole on Biden’s watch — a hole the recent gains are only now starting to climb out of.
And over the past two years — the entirety of Biden’s presidency — wages have cumulatively risen by 10% while inflation has risen cumulatively by 14%. So wages have trailed inflation for this period, too.
Dean Baker, co-founder of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research, said there’s a complicating factor for any comparisons of this sort. During the pandemic, real wages spiked — not because workers were getting raises, but because lower-wage workers were more likely to lose their jobs, and people who were still employed were unusually well-compensated.
When lower-wage workers got their jobs back in 2021 and 2022, it slowed wage growth, Baker said. But exactly how much is difficult to determine.
Biden said, "Take-home pay for workers is going up."
The data shows that wages have outpaced inflation for the past two quarters. However, that increase is only beginning to compensate for the wages that were eaten away by inflation earlier in Biden’s presidency.
During Biden’s two years in office, cumulative wage gains have been exceeded by cumulative inflation.
We rate the statement Half True.
Joe Biden, remarks on the economy and efforts to tackle inflation, Jan. 12, 2023
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, "Average hourly earnings of all employees, total private," accessed Jan. 12, 2023
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, "Employment Cost Index: Wages and salaries: Private industry workers," accessed Jan. 12, 2023
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, "Employed full time: Median usual weekly real earnings: Wage and salary workers: 16 years and over," accessed Jan. 12, 2023
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, "Consumer rice Index for all urban consumers: All items in U.S. city average," accessed Jan. 12, 2023
The New York Times, "December inflation report: Consumer price gains continue to cool," Jan. 12, 2023
Email interview with Gary Burtless, economist at the Brookings Institution, Jan. 12, 2023
Email interview with Dean Baker, co-founder of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research, Jan. 12, 2023
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.