A year ago, Joseph R. Biden took office as the 46th president of the United States — inheriting an economy weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic, but with effective vaccines to finally deal with it.
To mark Biden’s first year in office, we take stock of how the U.S. has performed under the new president. Here are some highlights:
- The U.S. economy added 6.2 million jobs since January 2021, but not all of the jobs lost during the pandemic have returned.
- Economic growth slowed in the third quarter, but economists estimate the economy grew by about 5% in 2021 — the fastest in decades.
- A key measurement of illegal immigration rose dramatically. The number of apprehensions at the border with Mexico increased by 317% in Biden’s first 10 full months in office, compared with the same period in 2020.
- Inflation came roaring back. During Biden’s first 11 months in office, the Consumer Price Index increased 6.8%. Gasoline prices jumped 39%.
- Wages and inflation are both up. But real weekly wages, adjusted for inflation, declined 2.2% for production and nonsupervisory workers.
- Corporate profits and stock prices hit new records.
- The number of people without health insurance went down by about 500,000, according to a government survey.
- The U.S. trade deficit, which grew larger under President Donald Trump, continued to increase. The gap grew 27.3% in Biden’s first 10 months.
- The number of people receiving food stamp benefits declined by about 905,000, or 2.2%, after steep increases during the height of the pandemic.
- The federal debt continues to rise, and annual deficits remained in the trillions.
- Biden has kept pace with Trump’s first year in winning confirmation of federal appeals court judges, and exceeded his predecessor in District Court confirmations.
- The U.S. image abroad has recovered. In 12 nations, many of which are key U.S. allies and partners, a median of 62% of foreigners said they held a positive view of the U.S. — up from a median of 34% in Trump’s final year.
It has been nearly 10 years since we published “Obama’s Numbers” — our attempt to provide a statistical measure of then-President Barack Obama’s first term in office as he went before the voters to seek reelection. After Obama won, we continued with quarterly reports. We did the same for Trump — and now we do so for Biden.
As always, we include statistics that may seem good for the president or bad, depending on a person’s partisan leanings. In Biden’s case, the economy and employment have been growing fast. But inflation and border apprehensions are also way up.
And, as always, we make no judgments on how much credit or blame the president deserves for any of it. We also warn that no single statistic can tell the whole story.
As it was for Trump, COVID-19 has been a defining issue of Biden’s presidency. As of Jan. 19, there have been more than 850,000 deaths in the U.S. attributed to COVID-19, a figure that’s more than twice as high as when Biden was sworn in, according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine statistics. Despite highly effective vaccines and significantly higher death rates for the unvaccinated, compared with those who got the shots, 37% of the U.S. population isn’t fully vaccinated. The human devastation and economic disruption are reflected in many of the statistics we present here.
Some statistics that we would like to include aren’t available just yet. FBI crime figures for last year aren’t due until September, for example. Poverty and household income figures for 2021 won’t be released until later this year. We’ll cover those issues and more in quarterly updates.
In all cases, we use the most recent and most reliable data available.
Jobs and Unemployment
The pandemic remains the major driver of the economy, which has continued to recover under Biden. While the employment picture has improved dramatically in Biden’s first year, it has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Employment — The U.S. economy added 6,215,000 jobs between January 2021, when Biden took office, and December, the latest month for which data is available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Biden has repeatedly boasted that that is “a record number for a new president.” And in raw numbers, that’s correct. But not as a percentage increase. Over the same period in President Jimmy Carter’s first year, employment grew by 4.6%, compared with 4.4% growth under Biden.
We should also note that jobs have not fully recovered from the pandemic. There were nearly 3.6 million fewer people working in December than there were in February 2020.
The increased number of jobs is in line with the long-term economic outlook that the Congressional Budget Office released on Feb. 11, 2021, just a couple of weeks after Biden was sworn in as president.
“Labor market conditions continue to improve,” CBO wrote. “As the economy expands, many people rejoin the civilian labor force who had left it during the pandemic, restoring it to its prepandemic size in 2022.”
Of course, the CBO’s projection was based on the assumption that “vaccination is expected to greatly reduce the number of new cases of COVID-19” and more people would return to work. It did not anticipate the spread of the omicron variant, which has led to a record-setting level of new cases.
Unemployment — Talking on Jan. 7 about the latest jobs report, Biden correctly noted that the unemployment rate — which was 3.9% in December — came “years faster than experts said we’d be able to do it.”
“Today’s national unemployment rate fell below 4% to 3.9% — the sharpest one-year drop in unemployment in United States history; the first time the unemployment rate has been under 4% in the first year of a presidential term in 50 years. 3.9% unemployment rate — years faster than experts said we’d be able to do it,” Biden said.
Indeed, CBO’s 10-year economic projections issued in February 2021 estimated that unemployment would not reach 3.9% until 2026.
The unemployment rate of 3.9% in December was 2.5 percentage points below the level Biden inherited when he took office, according to BLS. It remains 0.4 percentage points above the pre-pandemic rate of 3.5% in February 2020 (which was the lowest rate since the late 1960s).
Job Openings — The number of unfilled job openings stood at 10.6 million on the last business day of November, BLS reported, up nearly 3.5 million from January. That’s a whopping 49% increase. (December data will be released on Feb. 1.)
In fact, in November, there were nearly 3.8 million more job openings than job seekers.
Meanwhile, a record number of Americans are quitting their jobs — which some have taken to calling the Great Resignation. In November, 4.5 million people quit their jobs, the highest number since the Department of Labor began tracking the statistic two decades ago.
All of that may be good news for workers, but it has put a strain on businesses seeking to retain or hire workers, particularly those in the accommodation and food services business.
Labor Force Participation — The labor force participation rate has inched up some during Biden’s first year, from 61.4% in January 2021 to 61.9% in December.
Despite the upward trend, that’s still below the pre-pandemic 63.4% labor force participation rate in February 2020.
That’s not an anomaly. According to a BLS post in October, “The labor force participation rate never fully recovered to its pre-recession levels following the 2001 and 2007–09 recessions. At the start of each new recession the rate has been lower than it had been at its lowest point during the prior recession.”
In its 10-year economic projections, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted — both before and after Biden took office — that the labor force participation rate will continue to decline over the next decade.
Manufacturing Jobs — During the presidential campaign, Biden regularly referred to manufacturing jobs as the “backbone of America” and vowed to “revitalize” American manufacturing with a “buy-American” plan that he promised would result in a million new manufacturing jobs.
Between January and December, the U.S. added 367,000 manufacturing jobs, a 3% increase, according to BLS. That’s still 219,000 shy of the number of manufacturing jobs in February 2020, before the effects of the pandemic kicked in.
As we noted in “Trump’s Final Numbers,” the U.S. economy added manufacturing jobs every month during Trump’s first 18 months in office, but then those gains began to recede the following year. When the pandemic hit and numerous plants closed, manufacturing jobs nosedived.
Since bottoming out in April 2020, the number of manufacturing jobs rose steadily for the last eight months of Trump’s presidency, and have continued to rise under Biden.
The economy has rebounded under Biden, growing faster than it has in decades.
Although the first official estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis isn’t due to be released until Jan. 27, economists generally expect that real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product grew at around 5% or better in 2021. That hasn’t happened since 1976.
The official data available so far show that real GDP grew at an annual rate of 6.3% in the first three months of 2021 and 6.7% in the second quarter, then slowed to 2.3% in the third quarter.
For all of last year, the median forecast by economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal in January was for GDP growth to come in at 5.2% when the dust settles. (That’s the figure we have used in our chart below.)
The “GDP Now” forecast produced by the Federal Reserve Board of Atlanta currently projects that the fourth quarter rate will come in at 5.1%, based on what economic data are already available.
Earlier, Federal Reserve Board members and bank presidents were more optimistic. They expected 2021 growth to come in at between 5.3% and 5.8%, according to estimates released Dec. 15. Their median projection was 5.5%.
And the least optimistic estimate we found came from business economists surveyed in November by the National Association for Business Economics. The NABE survey produced a median estimate of 4.9% growth in 2021 — which would still be the best year since 1999.
The estimated number of people without health insurance dropped slightly — by about 500,000 — in the first six months in 2021, compared with 2020. That’s according to early release estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, which found that 31.1 million people were uninsured at the time they were interviewed from January through June 2021. Biden was president for all but 19 days of that time period. The figure for 2020 was 31.6 million — “not significantly different” from the latest figures, NHIS said.
In percentage terms, 9.6% of Americans were uninsured at the time of interview for the first six months of 2021, compared with 9.7% in 2020.
In 2016, before Trump took office and sought to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, 9% of the population had lacked coverage, according to the same survey.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the percentage of nonelderly people with ACA exchange insurance has gone up, from 3.7% in 2019 to 3.8% in 2020 and 4.3% in the first six months of 2021.
The NHIS notes these preliminary figures haven’t gone through final editing and weighting, but typically the difference between the preliminary and final estimates is “less than 0.1 percentage point.”
Health insurance estimates for all of 2021 from the Census Bureau, which examines the number lacking insurance for the entire year, are not expected until this coming fall.
During the campaign, Trump repeatedly warned that if Biden were elected the stock market would “crash,” “collapse” “drop 100%” and “go down like you wouldn’t believe.” But the stock market has continued to rise under Biden.
On Jan. 19, 2022, the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock average closed at 19.3% above where it had been the day before Biden was inaugurated.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, made up of 30 large corporations, is up 13.2% so far during Biden’s time in office.
And the NASDAQ composite index, made up of more than 3,000 companies, including many in the technology sector, has risen 8.7% since he took office.
With the exception of a pandemic-induced plunge in stock prices in March 2020, the stock market has risen steadily for more than a dozen years. The S&P 500 index rose 166% over the eight years President Barack Obama was in office, and it climbed another 67.8% during Trump’s four years. The pace of growth under Biden so far is better than both of them.
In remarks on Jan. 7 about the December jobs report, Biden gloated about the continuation of the markets’ rise.
“And, by the way, the stock market — the last guy’s measure of everything — is about 20% higher than it was when my predecessor was there,” Biden said. “It has hit record after record after record on my watch, while making things more equitable for working-class people.”
Wages and Inflation
CPI — During Biden’s first 11 months in office, inflation came roaring back after a long slumber.
The Consumer Price Index rose an average of only 1.9% each year of the Trump presidency (measured as the 12-month change ending each January), 1.8% during Obama’s eight years in office and 2.4% during each of George W. Bush’s years.
But during Biden’s first 11 months, the most recent on record, the CPI shot up 6.8%.
For the 12 months ending in December, the CPI rose 7.0% before seasonal adjustment, the biggest such December-to-December jump since 1981, the first year of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. It was also the biggest 12-month jump for any period since the one ending June 1982.
Wages — Wages also have gone up under Biden, but not as fast as prices.
Average weekly earnings for rank-and-file workers went up 5.2% during Biden’s first 11 months in office, according to monthly figures compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those production and nonsupervisory workers make up 82% of all employees in the private sector.
But inflation ate up all that gain and more. What are called “real” earnings, adjusted for inflation and measured in dollars valued at their average level in 1982-84, actually declined 2.2% during that time.
Nevertheless, rank-and-file workers still have heftier paychecks now than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic forced 22 million out of work. Back in February and March 2020 average real wages soared simply because it was mostly lower-wage workers who were being laid off. But now low-paid workers are quitting and trading up to better-paying jobs at a record clip.
Even at their recent peak, inflation-adjusted earnings remained well below the levels reached in the late 1960s. For a broader historical view, see our June 28, 2019, story “Are Wages Rising or Flat?”
The psychological effect of inflation is magnified by a huge spike in gasoline prices, advertised in foot-high numbers on street corners everywhere.
As of the week that ended Jan. 17, the national average price of regular gasoline at the pump was just under $3.31 per gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That’s an increase of 93 cents or 39% since the week before Biden took office.
Spending for gasoline makes up just over 4% of what consumers lay out each month, according to the BLS. But experts expect gasoline prices will soon ease. “We forecast gasoline prices will average $3.06/gal in 2022 and $2.81/gal in 2023,” the EIA said in its most recent Short-Term Energy Outlook this month.
After two straight years of declining profits, corporations saw their profits surge to new heights under Biden — reaching an annual rate of just over $2.7 trillion in the third quarter of 2021, according to the latest Bureau of Economic Analysis data.
Corporate profits dropped to an annualized rate of $1.58 trillion in the second quarter of 2020, before beginning to recover — ending at nearly $1.91 trillion for the year. The $2.72 trillion figure for the third quarter of 2021 is nearly 43% higher than the full-year figure for 2020.
A key measurement of illegal immigration rose dramatically under Biden.
The number of apprehensions at the U.S. border with Mexico increased 317% during Biden’s first full 10 months in office, compared with the same period in 2020, according to the most recent figures released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Illegal border crossings, as measured by apprehensions at the Southwest border, were rising steadily in the last nine months of Trump’s presidency, and then surged dramatically after Biden took office.
From January to March of last year, the number of apprehensions more than doubled to 169,216. They continued to rise, hitting a peak of just over 200,000 in July (a monthly figure that hadn’t been seen since 2000). The monthly numbers have come down a bit since then, and were at 165,783 in November. But that’s still nearly two and a half times the number from the previous November.
Jessica Bolter, an associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, said the figures come with an important caveat. The numbers represent the total number of apprehensions, so if someone is encountered attempting to cross the border multiple times in a month or year, each is recorded separately. And there is reason to believe those repeat cases are much higher than in years prior to fiscal year 2020.
Most of the apprehensions at the border have been illegal border crossings that resulted in immediate expulsions under Title 42, a public health law the Trump administration began invoking at the Southwest border in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It had a counter-intuitive effect on the migration patterns of single adults,” Bolter said. “It lessened the consequences of being caught crossing the border.”
Instead of being detained for a longer period of time, being criminally prosecuted or having a formal removal order placed on your record, those subject to Title 42 are simply turned around at the border. As a result, Bolter said, it encouraged people to simply try crossing again and again, driving up the apprehension numbers.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the recidivism rate — meaning the share of people caught crossing more than once — was 27% in fiscal year 2021, which began under Trump on Oct. 1, 2020, and ended on Sept. 30, 2021, when Biden was president. By comparison, the rate was just 7% in fiscal year 2019. (Given that the Title 42 policy was enacted in March 2020, the fiscal year 2020 recidivism rate under Trump was similarly high, 26%.)
That being said, the surging numbers of apprehensions “is not all an illusion,” Bolter said. “There has been an increase in immigrants crossing at the border. Part of this is due to the perception that President Biden would treat immigrants more leniently.”
Indeed, upon taking office, Biden sought to reverse many of Trump’s immigration policies, starting with an immediate halt to construction of border wall. Biden also exempted unaccompanied children from expulsion under Title 42. And he has been trying to end the Migrant Protection Protocols, better known as the “remain in Mexico” policy that was introduced by the Trump administration in 2019. Under that policy, asylum seekers were sent to Mexico to await their court appearances in the U.S. Biden sought to end the program in June, but the federal courts blocked termination of the program – which continues under new standards, even as the administration continues to take steps to end it.
All of that contributed to the perception that Biden would treat immigrants more leniently, which in turn encouraged more people to attempt to come to the U.S., Bolter said.
There were some other changes that Biden didn’t implement that also had an effect on migration.
After Biden’s inauguration, the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, which shares a border with Texas, stopped accepting the return of expelled migrant families with younger children. As a result, higher number of immigrants were released into the U.S., Bolter said.
In addition, devastating hurricanes in November 2020 in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala have contributed to a surge of immigrants heading to the U.S. early in Biden’s presidency, she said.
Plus, a larger portion of immigrants attempting to cross into the U.S. from Mexico are coming from countries other than Mexico and Central America. Significantly higher numbers are coming from Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela and Haiti — largely driven by poverty and food insecurity resulting from the pandemic, she said.
As a candidate, Biden said he would “set the annual global refugee admissions cap to 125,000, and seek to raise it over time commensurate with our responsibility, our values, and the unprecedented global need.” That signaled a significant break from Trump’s policies on refugees.
Trump lowered the cap to 15,000 for fiscal year 2021, which began under Trump on Oct. 1, 2020, and ended under Biden on Sept. 30, 2021. Although Biden raised that cap to 62,500 after taking office, the U.S. accepted just 11,411 refugees in FY2021 — about 400 fewer than it did in FY2020 and the lowest number in 40 years.
In a Sept. 20, 2021, report to Congress, the State Department admitted it would “fall far short of the 62,500 target” in FY 2021, despite the Biden administration’s attempts to “rebuild and expand” the refugee admission program and “address the many challenges posed by COVID-19.”
Biden raised the cap to 125,000 for fiscal year 2022. But admissions still lag far below that cap.
The State Department data through December 2021 show that in Biden’s first 11 full months in office — from February 2021 through December 2021 — the U.S. has admitted only 13,276 refugees, including just 3,268 in the first three months of fiscal year 2022.
In his first full 11 months in office, Biden is averaging just 1,207 admissions per month — which is 34.5% less than the 1,843 monthly average under Trump’s four years and well below the 10,417 monthly admissions the Biden administration needs to reach its 125,000 annual goal.
(Statistical note: For both presidents, our calculations include only full months in office, excluding the month of January 2017 and January 2021, when administrations overlapped.)
Home Prices & Homeownership
The most recent sales figures from the National Association of Realtors show the national median price of an existing, single-family home sold in November was $362,600, up nearly 18% since January. The median price was even higher earlier in the year, hitting a record $370,100 in June.
Homeownership — The percentage of Americans who own their own homes declined during the pandemic and continues to fall.
The homeownership rate, which the Census Bureau measures as the percentage of housing units that are owner-occupied, was 65.4% in the third quarter of 2021. That was 0.4 percentage points lower than the 65.8% rate during Trump’s last quarter in office.
The most recent decline began in the third quarter of 2020 when the rate fell to 67.4% from 67.9% in the second quarter of 2020 — which was the peak under Trump.
These figures, however, come with a caveat. The Census Bureau urges users to “exercise caution when comparing the second, third, and fourth quarter 2020 estimates as well as first quarter and second quarters 2021 estimates to previous quarters,” because of the effects of the pandemic and changes in data collection.
“In the third quarter of 2021, the pandemic-related restrictions on [Current Population Survey/Housing Vacancy Survey] data collection had ended in almost all areas, and less than one-half of one percent of cases were affected,” the bureau said in a Nov. 2 release. “However, comparisons of the third quarter estimates to prior quarters may be affected to the extent that restrictions on in-person data collection were more widespread in previous quarters.”
With rising inflation and the continued effects of the pandemic, consumer confidence in the economy has fallen nearly 13% since Biden took office.
The University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers reported that its preliminary Index of Consumer Sentiment dropped in January to 68.8 — down about 10 points from 79 a year ago when Biden took office.
Under Biden, consumer confidence initially trended upward, peaking at 88.3 in April. But concerns about inflation and the emergence of two new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the summer (delta) and winter (omicron) have shaken consumer confidence in the economy.
The low monthly rates recorded in the latter half of 2021 hadn’t been seen in more than a decade.
“The Sentiment Index has averaged just 70.3 in the past six months, whereas in the first six months of 2021 it averaged 82.9,” Richard Curtin, director of the University of Michigan’s Survey of Consumers, said in releasing the January index. “While the Delta and Omicron variants certainly contributed to this downward shift, the decline was also due to an escalating inflation rate.”
Another major trend has been the partisan divide in consumer confidence. For January, the Index of Consumer Sentiment was 87.2 among Democrats and 48.4 among Republicans. In August 2020, when Trump was still president, that was flipped, with the rate at 57.6 among Democrats and 98.6 among Republicans.
“Partisan views now dominate consumers’ economic expectations,” Curtin wrote in a Jan. 12, 2021, report.
While there have always been partisan differences driving consumer confidence, the partisan gap seen under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had doubled under Trump and has remained equally wide under Biden.
“Unfortunately, the size of the partisan divide in expectations has completely dominated rational assessments of ongoing economic trends,” Curtin stated. “This situation is likely to encourage poor decisions by consumers and policy makers alike.”
The international trade deficit, which grew larger under Trump, continued to increase.
Figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis show the U.S. imported nearly $720 billion more in goods and services than it exported during Biden’s first full 10 months in office through November. That gap was $154 billion, or 27.3%, more than it was during the same period in 2020, when the annual trade deficit was the largest it had been since 2008.
Oil Production and Imports
U.S. crude oil production dipped slightly to an average of 11.07 million barrels per day in Biden’s first full nine months, down 1% from the same nine-month period in 2020, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
However, the decline may only be temporary. This month, in its Short-Term Energy Outlook, the EIA said it expects U.S. crude oil production to increase to 11.8 million barrels per day in 2022 and to 12.4 million barrels per day in 2023, which, if it happens, would exceed the record of 12.3 million barrels per day in 2019.
Meanwhile, as domestic production went down a bit, U.S. crude oil imports in Biden’s first full nine months increased to an average of nearly 6.1 million barrels per day — up 3.6% from the comparable period in 2020. Prior to 2021, imports of foreign crude oil had declined three straight years.
U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption also began to increase after annual decreases in two consecutive years.
In Biden’s first full eight months in office, there were over 3.2 billion metric tons of emissions from the consumption of coal, natural gas and various petroleum products, according to the EIA’s latest monthly figures. That was 9% more than the 2.94 billion metric tons that were emitted from consuming those energy sources over the same stretch in 2020.
An increase was not unexpected. In January 2021, just before Biden took office, the EIA projected that CO2 emissions would rise by 4.7% in 2021 and by 3.2% in 2022. EIA said it expected more CO2 emissions from coal because of higher natural gas prices, and higher petroleum-related CO2 emissions as transportation patterns returned to normal. For the first nine months of 2021, net electricity generation from coal was up 23% from the same period a year ago, according to the EIA.
Nationwide crime data for 2021 from the FBI, which is what we have used for crime statistics in these reports, won’t be available until the fall. However, we do have crime figures compiled by the Major Cities Chiefs Association from 66 law enforcement agencies in big cities for most of 2021.
From January through the end of September 2021, there were 6,502 homicides in those cities, up 10.1% from the same period in 2020. Although Biden had been criticized by Republicans for the rise, the number of murders had already increased significantly before Biden took office: From 2019 to 2020, they went up 32.7%, according to the Major Cities Chiefs Association.
For the first nine months of 2021, the number of rapes increased 1.9%; robberies were down 5.7%; and aggravated assaults were up 4.9%, compared with the same time period in 2020.
In 2020, aggravated assaults were also up, compared with 2019, but the number of rapes and robberies were both down.
We don’t yet know if handgun production increased or decreased in 2021, as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has yet to publish its annual manufacturing figures.
But we do have an indication that purchases slowed some last year.
Although the government doesn’t collect data on gun sales, the National Shooting Sports Foundation — the gun industry’s trade group — estimates gun sales by tracking the number of background checks for firearm sales based on the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System, or NICS. The NSSF-adjusted figures exclude background checks unrelated to sales, such as those required for concealed-carry permits.
The NSSF pointed out that the 2021 figure suggests that Biden, whose gun safety platform called for banning the manufacturing and sale of assault weapons, saw more guns sold in his first year in office than the previous two presidents, Trump and Obama.
While he has yet to be able to make a Supreme Court nomination, Biden has kept pace with Trump in his first year in appellate confirmations and more than matched his predecessor in District Court confirmations.
Supreme Court — One year into Biden’s presidency, there hasn’t been a vacancy on the Supreme Court. During Trump’s first year, he won confirmation for one justice, Neil Gorsuch.
District Court — Twenty-nine Biden nominees to be federal District Court judges have been confirmed, while Trump had won confirmation for 10 at the same point in his presidency.
As of Jan. 19, there were just four vacancies for Court of Appeals judges and 70 for District Court judges.
Debt and Deficits
As of Jan. 18, the public debt, which does not include money the government owes itself, had increased to $23.3 trillion, up 7.9% from $21.6 trillion when Biden took office.
Contributing to the rising debt was the massive $2.8 trillion deficit in fiscal year 2021, which was still 9.7% lower than the $3.1 trillion deficit in fiscal year 2020. In both years, the unusually large deficits were due primarily to pandemic-related economic disruptions and the trillions of dollars in federal spending that followed in response.
In March, Biden himself signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would add more than $1.8 trillion to the deficit over 10 years, including nearly $1.2 trillion in FY 2021.
And deficits and debt are expected to increase for years to come.
In its Budget and Economic Outlook published in July, the CBO projected that annual deficits would decline to a low of $753 billion in 2024 before rising to a high of almost $1.9 trillion in 2031. Between 2022 and 2031, CBO said the publicly held debt would fluctuate between about 99% and 106% of GDP.
Fewer people are accessing benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, according to the Department of Agriculture’s latest data.
As of October, the most recent month for which preliminary figures are available, 41.1 million people were receiving food assistance. The number has gone down by about 905,000, or 2.2%, since January, when Biden took office.
Under Trump, there were as few as 36.9 million collecting SNAP benefits in February 2020. But that figure increased to as many as 43 million beneficiaries in June 2020, as more people turned to the program during the height of the pandemic.
U.S. Image Abroad
Under Biden, who pledged “to make America respected around the world again,” U.S. favorability ratings abroad have improved considerably, according to a Pew Research Center analysis published in June.
Pew’s polling in 16 countries from March 12, 2021, to May 26, 2021, shows a median of 61% of foreigners said they had a favorable opinion of the United States. In the 12 nations also surveyed in 2020, many of which are key U.S. allies and partners, the median figure with a positive view of the U.S. had increased to 62%, up from a median of 34% in Trump’s final year.
In all but two countries — New Zealand (42%) and Australia (48%) — favorability of the U.S. in 2021 was higher than 50%. “These broadly positive views reflect a sharp uptick since last summer,” while Trump was still president, “when ratings of the U.S. were at or near historic lows in most countries,” Pew noted at the time.
U.S. favorability was most improved in France, up 34 percentage points from 31% in 2020. America’s favorability rating also grew at least 30 percentage points among residents in Germany, Belgium and Japan.
South Koreans hold the most positive views of America, with a 77% favorable opinion of the U.S. — up 18 percentage points from the prior year. In addition, the percentage of residents in the Netherlands, Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy who view the U.S. favorably increased by at least 20 points under Biden.
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