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President Joe Biden speaks about the economy in Largo, Md., on Sept. 14, 2023. (AP) President Joe Biden speaks about the economy in Largo, Md., on Sept. 14, 2023. (AP)

President Joe Biden speaks about the economy in Largo, Md., on Sept. 14, 2023. (AP)

By Jacquie Broush October 12, 2023

Are West Virginia Republicans correct that real wages have fallen since Joe Biden took office?

If Your Time is short

As the 2024 election approaches, Republicans nationwide are running against incumbent president and likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden by focusing on the economy, and particularly the unusually high levels of inflation on his watch.

In summer 2022, inflation reached about 9%, a level unseen in four decades. That represented a hit to consumers.

In an Aug. 17 post on X, formerly known as Twitter, the West Virginia Republican Party listed several statistics it sees as undercutting Biden’s record on the economy:

"You are paying the price for Biden’s energy agenda. Since Biden took office:

"❌ Gas is more than $1/gallon more expensive

"❌ Americans have lost over $10k in increased cost of living

"❌ Nearly 20M households behind on utility bills

"❌ Real wages have fallen monthly."

PolitiFact West Virginia recently fact-checked another statement about gasoline prices, that "gas prices have skyrocketed since Joe Biden took office and continue to do so everyday." That was rated Half True

Here, we’ll examine another of the post’s claims: "Since Biden took office … real wages have fallen monthly." 

"Real wages" means wages adjusted for inflation. When real wages are falling, inflation is rising faster than wages. When real wages are rising, wages are rising faster than inflation.

Featured Fact-check

The West Virginia Republican Party did not respond to inquiries for this article, but we were able to assess the statement’s accuracy using commonly cited economic data.

The most applicable federal wage data that is calculated monthly is known as average hourly earnings for all private-sector employees. This can be tracked against the standard measure of inflation, the consumer price index, which is also calculated monthly.

From January to March 2021 — Biden’s first three months in office — wages rose faster than inflation. After that, however, inflation accelerated. 

We have previously reported that rising inflation was initially driven by COVID-19-related labor market disruptions and supply-chain difficulties. The war in Ukraine, which led to a spike in gasoline prices, worsened inflation. Economists say that Biden’s 2021 coronavirus relief bill, the American Rescue Plan Act, also worsened inflation by putting more money in Americans’ hands after the pandemic had begun to wane; this meant too much money was chasing too few goods.

For the following two years — April 2021 to April 2023 — inflation rose faster than wages. That means real (or inflation-adjusted) wages were falling.

So, the post has a point that under Biden, "real wages have fallen monthly." But that ceased to be accurate a few months ago.

From May to July 2023 — the final three months for which data would have been known at the time of the tweet — wages rose faster than inflation. That pattern continued in August 2023

Meanwhile, another measure of wages — median usual weekly inflation-adjusted earnings for full-time wage and salary workers, ages 16 and older — showed a similarly mixed pattern on Biden’s watch, contrary to the West Virginia GOP’s tweet. This measure is released quarterly rather than monthly. 

For this measure, inflation-adjusted earnings fell for the first six quarters of Biden’s presidency but have climbed (or for one quarter, remained the same) for the most recent four quarters. The measure also fell for the final two quarters of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Our ruling

The West Virginia Republican party said, "Since Biden took office ... real wages have fallen monthly."

Inflation has outpaced wages for most of Biden’s tenure in office —  two full years, to be exact. 

But that has not been the case for every month he’s been president. Wages outpaced inflation for Biden’s first three months, as well as over the past four months, when real wages seem to have turned a corner as inflation has receded.

We rate the statement Mostly True.

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Are West Virginia Republicans correct that real wages have fallen since Joe Biden took office?

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