Here’s how the U.S. has been performing since President Joe Biden assumed office:
- The economy regained 7.9 million jobs, getting within 1.6 million of the peak employment before the pandemic.
- Unemployment fell to 3.6%; unfilled job openings surged, with 1.8 slots for every person seeking work.
- Inflation roared back to the highest level in over 40 years. Consumer prices are up 9.7%. Gasoline alone rose nearly 72%.
- Wages rose briskly, by 6.5%. But after adjusting for inflation, “real” weekly earnings went down 3.8%.
- The economy grew 5.7% last year — the highest rate of growth since 1984.
- The monthly average number of migrants apprehended at the border with Mexico over the last year increased by 309% compared with the average during President Donald Trump’s final year.
- The percentage of Americans without health insurance dropped by 1.4 points from the last quarter of Trump’s presidency to the third quarter of Biden’s.
- The U.S. admitted 18,766 refugees in Biden’s first 14 full months in office — lagging far behind his goal of 125,000 refugees a year.
- Annual corporate profits increased last year for the first time since 2018, topping $2.6 trillion and setting a new record.
- Homicides in U.S. big cities were up 6.2% from 2020 to 2021.
- The U.S. trade deficit grew by more than 34% and is on pace for a new record high.
- Crude oil production has increased by nearly 1%, with larger gains projected for this year.
- Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first Black woman confirmed to the Supreme Court.
- The public debt rose another 10%, although federal deficits are on the decline.
- Stock prices are up since Biden took office, but have fallen since the start of the year.
As our regular readers know, we have been tracking the nation’s progress — or lack thereof, in some cases — since October 2012, when we introduced “Obama’s Numbers,” which we updated on a quarterly basis. We did the same for Trump.
This is our first quarterly update of “Biden’s Numbers,” which debuted in January.
Here we include the latest statistics from authoritative sources on the state of the nation’s economic and social well-being. We don’t assign blame or credit, knowing full well that opinions will differ on that.
We should note that some statistics are not available at this time. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has yet to release either an interim or final report on 2021 gun manufacturing data. We also won’t have Census Bureau poverty and household income figures for 2021 until September. We’ll cover those and more in quarterly updates to come.
Jobs and Unemployment
The economy continued to rebound under Biden, regaining millions of jobs lost during the pandemic and driving the unemployment rate down to almost as low as it had been before.
Employment — The U.S. economy added 7,908,000 jobs between January 2021, when Biden took office, and March, the latest month for which data is available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Biden boasted when the March numbers were released: That’s “more jobs created over the first 14 months of any presidency in any term ever.” That’s true enough, measured in the sheer number of jobs. In percentage terms, Biden’s 5.5% job growth runs a close second to the 5.9% gain during the first 14 months of Jimmy Carter’s presidency.
And employment still hasn’t fully recovered from the pandemic. There were nearly 1.6 million fewer people working in March than there were in February 2020, just before COVID-19 forced much of the economy to shut down.
Unemployment — The unemployment rate plunged during Biden’s first 14 months, down to 3.6% in March from 6.4% when he took office.
“There have been only three months in the last 50 years where the unemployment rate in America is lower than it is now,” Biden said of the most recent report.
That’s correct, though Biden failed to mention that those three months were during Trump’s presidency. The rate was 3.5% in September 2019 and again in January and February 2020. So even the jobless rate is not quite back to where it was before the pandemic.
Job Openings — Job opportunities surged during Biden’s time — and workers scrambled to take advantage.
The number of unfilled job openings hit a record 11.4 million in December — by far the highest recorded in the 21 years the Labor Department has tracked that figure. And it had edged down only slightly by the last business day of February, the most recent figure available, when it stood at 11.3 million.
That’s an increase of more than 4 million — 56% — since Biden was inaugurated.
Meanwhile, record numbers of Americans are quitting their jobs. That number hit 4.5 million in November, the most since the Department of Labor began tracking the statistic two decades ago. It was little changed, at 4.3 million, in February, the most recent figure available. That’s an increase of 31% from where it stood in January 2021, when Biden took office.
Some called it the “great resignation,” and it certainly causes problems for businesses trying to cope with a shortage of workers. But a more fitting name might be the “great upgrade,” as most who quit say they found better jobs elsewhere.
Labor Force Participation — The wealth of job opportunities began drawing sidelined workers back into the workforce. The labor force participation rate climbed to 62.4% in March, up 1 full percentage point from where it was when Biden took office.
That’s still well below the pre-pandemic 63.4% labor force participation rate in February 2020. The rate has been trending downward for years, after peaking at 67.3% for the first four months of 2000, largely due to the aging population.
Manufacturing Jobs — Under Biden, the U.S. has regained 473,000 manufacturing jobs, a 3.9% increase, according to BLS.
That’s still 128,000 shy of the number of manufacturing jobs in February 2020, before the effects of the pandemic kicked in.
Wages and Inflation
CPI — Inflation came roaring back under Biden. During his first 14 months in office, the Consumer Price Index rose 9.7%.
It’s the worst inflation in more than 40 years. The most recent 12 months on record, ending in March, saw an 8.5% increase in the CPI, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics said was the biggest such increase since the 12 months ending in December 1981.
Inflation had been relatively dormant for years before Biden. The CPI 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 President Barack Obama’s eight years and 2.4% during George W. Bush’s two terms.
The current inflation is hitting especially hard where people experience it most regularly — at the gas pump and at the grocery store. In the most recent 12 months, gasoline prices increased 48% and food at home increased 10%, the BLS said.
Gasoline Prices — The psychological effect of inflation is magnified by that huge spike in gasoline prices. While spending on gasoline makes up just under 4% of what consumers lay out each month, according to the BLS, the prices are advertised in foot-high numbers on street corners everywhere.
Prices have eased a bit since hitting a high of nearly $4.32 per gallon in the second week of March. But as of the week that ended April 11, the national average price of regular gasoline at the pump was still just over $4.09 per gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That’s an increase of $1.71 or nearly 72% since the week before Biden took office.
Biden blames “Putin’s price hike” for this pain at the pump, but the fact is gasoline prices already had gone up 48% under Biden as of the week before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. Still, experts have told us Biden’s policies aren’t the cause of higher gas prices.
Experts expect gasoline prices will soon ease further. “We expect U.S. prices for retail gasoline will average $3.84 per gallon (gal) this summer (April–September)” the EIA said in its most recent Short-Term Energy Outlook this month. Still, that would be “up from $3.06/gal last summer and the highest price (adjusted for inflation) since the summer of 2014,” EIA said.
Wages — Wages also have gone up under Biden, but not as fast as prices.
Average weekly earnings for rank-and-file workers went up 6.5% during Biden’s first 14 months in office, according to monthly figures compiled by the BLS. Those production and nonsupervisory workers make up 81% 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 3.8% 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. And 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?”
Consumer confidence in the economy, which rose in Biden’s first few months in office, has dropped to a low point in his second year.
Shortly after Biden assumed the presidency, the University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers monthly index rose from 79 in January 2021 to 88.3 in April 2021, as COVID-19 vaccines became more available and COVID-19 cases were on the decline.
But rising inflation has taken its toll on consumer confidence.
The monthly index was 59.4 in March — 19.6 points lower than it was when Biden took office. Richard Curtin, director of the University of Michigan’s Survey of Consumers, said “inflation has been the primary cause of rising pessimism.”
The March index was the lowest consumer confidence has been since August 2011, when it fell to 55.8.
Home Prices & Homeownership
Home Prices — Home prices have stabilized a bit since our last report, but still remain higher under Biden than Trump.
The most recent figures from the National Association of Realtors show the median price of an existing, single-family home sold in February was $363,800 — up 18% from January 2021. But the percentage increase is about the same from our last report.
Home prices in Biden’s first year set new records, because of low interest rates, a lack of adequate inventory and other factors. The national median price of an existing, single-family home peaked in June 2021 at $370,100. But there are signs that the market is cooling. Inventory and interest rates have increased, while sales have declined, the NAR said in a March 18 press release on February sales.
Homeownership — Under Biden, the homeownership rate still hasn’t recovered from the economic effects of the pandemic.
The homeownership rate, which the Census Bureau measures as the percentage of housing units that are owner-occupied, was 65.5% in the fourth quarter of 2021. That was 0.3 percentage points lower than the 65.8% rate during Trump’s last quarter in office. (Word of caution: The bureau warns against making comparisons with the fourth quarter of 2020, because of pandemic-related restrictions on in-person data collection.)
The rate peaked under Trump in the second quarter of 2020 at 67.9%, before the economic effects of the pandemic took hold. That means the most recent rate is 2.4 percentage points lower than the pre-pandemic rate. (In the fourth quarter of 2021, the pandemic-related restrictions on data collection were lifted in all areas, the bureau said.)
The highest homeownership rate on record was 69.2% in 2004.
For the first time since 2018, corporations saw their annual profits increase in 2021. Profits topped $2.6 trillion for the year, setting a new record, according to figures released March 30 by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The previous record was $1.98 trillion in 2018.
The most recent year’s figure is 37.3% higher than the full-year figure for 2020, the year before Biden’s inauguration.
The economy in Biden’s first year did even better than economists expected — boosted by a stronger than expected fourth quarter. But there are signs of slowing in 2022.
In our last report, we noted that the median forecast by economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal in January was for GDP growth to come in at 5.2% for 2021. But the official data showed that real GDP grew at an annual rate of 6.9% in the fourth quarter of 2021, up from 2.3% in the third quarter and boosting the full-year growth rate higher than expected.
But the economy isn’t expected to continue at that pace.
The “GDP Now” forecast produced by the Federal Reserve Board of Atlanta projects that the first quarter will come in at 1.1%, based on available economic data so far for the quarter as of April 8.
For the year, The Conference Board projects that annual growth in the U.S. will be 3% in 2022, explaining in a March 10 release that it downgraded growth expectations in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A key measurement of illegal immigration, apprehensions at the southwest border, has risen dramatically under Biden.
To even out that seasonal changes in border crossings, our measure compares the most recent 12 months on record with the year prior to a president taking office. And for the past 12 months ending in February (the most recent for which figures are available), apprehensions totaled 2,079,543. That’s a whopping 309% higher than the total during Trump’s last year in office.
Although apprehensions were on the rise when Trump left office — and were 14.7% higher in Trump’s last year compared with the year before he took office — apprehensions jumped dramatically after Biden became president. They more than doubled in Biden’s first few months in office and rose to 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 some since then, but remain historically high.
As we wrote in January, some of the higher numbers under Biden (as well as for Trump in his last year) are inflated due to higher recidivism rates — meaning the share of people caught crossing more than once. Recidivism rates have increased since the Trump administration enacted (and the Biden administration continued) an order under Title 42, a public health law invoked at the southwest border in March 2020 that allowed border officials to immediately turn away many of those caught trying to enter the country illegally. Trump invoked the law because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jessica Bolter, an associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, told us some of the surge at the border after Biden took office was the result of “the perception that President Biden would treat immigrants more leniently,” which encouraged more people to attempt to come to the U.S. But there have been other issues beyond Biden’s control contributing to the trend, Bolter said, including devastating hurricanes in November 2020 in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala that drove immigrants to the U.S. In addition, she said, there has been a surge in immigrants coming from countries other than Mexico and Central America — chiefly from Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela and Haiti — and largely driven by poverty and food insecurity resulting from the pandemic.
Now, there is rising concern that a new surge may soon be coming. On April 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it was terminating its Title 42 order, effective May 23.
“After considering current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight COVID-19 (such as highly effective vaccines and therapeutics), the CDC Director has determined that an Order suspending the right to introduce migrants into the United States is no longer necessary,” according to the CDC press release.
In a March 28 report, the Department of Homeland Security cautioned, “Once this Order is lifted, DHS anticipates a significant increase in migration and enforcement encounters.”
“The DHS Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS) produced projections for post-Title 42 Southwest Border encounters describing low, medium, high, or very high encounter scenarios,” DHS wrote in the report. “These scenarios underpin planning assumptions that generate requirements which in turn drive operational execution. Based on these projections the SBCC [Southwest Border Coordination Center] is currently planning for 6,000, 12,000 (high) and 18,000 (very high) encounters per day.”
On the day that CDC announced it would be lifting the Title 42 order, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas released a statement saying that DHS will process migrants at the border as they had before the Title 42 order.
“Nonetheless, we know that smugglers will spread misinformation to take advantage of vulnerable migrants,” Mayorkas said. “Let me be clear: those unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed.”
Mayorkas said the administration has “put in place a comprehensive, whole-of-government strategy to manage any potential increase in the number of migrants encountered at our border. We are increasing our capacity to process new arrivals, evaluate asylum requests, and quickly remove those who do not qualify for protection. We will increase personnel and resources as needed and have already redeployed more than 600 law enforcement officers to the border.”
Meanwhile, Republicans are holding up a bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill to insist that Congress vote on an amendment to reinstate the Title 42 restrictions.
Debt and Deficits
Debt — The federal debt held by the public has climbed another 2.2% since our first report on Biden’s numbers.
As of April 11, the public debt, which does not include money the government owes itself, had increased to $23.85 trillion – up from $23.34 trillion when we last checked on Jan. 18.
Under Biden, the public debt so far has increased 10%. It increased by 50% during Trump’s four years in office.
Deficits — As for annual deficits, however, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that federal borrowing declined during the first six months of fiscal year 2022 when compared with the same period in fiscal year 2021.
In its most recent monthly budget review, the CBO said the deficit through the first six months of the current fiscal year (from October 2021 to March 2022) was $667 billion, roughly 40% of the $1.71 trillion deficit during the same six-month period in fiscal year 2021.
The CBO said the cumulative deficit for the first half of fiscal 2022 is also lower than the deficits of $691 billion and $743 billion during the first six months of fiscal 2019 and 2020, respectively.
In July, CBO projected that the deficit for the full fiscal year would be $1.15 trillion, dropping to $789 billion in fiscal 2023 and remaining under $1 trillion through fiscal 2025.
The international trade deficit grew more than 40% under Trump and has continued to increase under Biden.
The latest BEA figures show that the U.S. imported over $907 billion more in goods and services than it exported during the most recent 12 months ending in February. That trade gap was $230.4 billion, or 34.1%, higher than in 2020.
In the first two months of 2022, the U.S. imported a monthly average of $89.2 billion more in goods and services than it exported — putting the country on pace for its largest annual trade deficit on record.
Biden is still far off from reaching his goal — first set as a candidate — to admit 125,000 refugees into the United States each fiscal year.
As president, Biden set the cap at 125,000 for fiscal year 2022, which began Oct. 1, 2021, and ends Sept. 30, 2022. But to accomplish that goal, the U.S. would have to admit on average 10,417 refugees each month. So far, State Department data show that the U.S. in the first six months of fiscal year 2022 has admitted a total of only 8,758 refugees, or less than 1,500 per month.
In Biden’s first full 14 months in office, the U.S. has admitted 18,766 refugees, or about 1,340 per month. That’s 27% less than the 1,843 monthly average during Trump’s four years. (For both presidents, our monthly averages include only full months in office, excluding the month of January 2017 and January 2021, when administrations overlapped.)
In setting the goal at 125,000 for fiscal year 2022, the State Department said the global pandemic “will undoubtedly impact” its ability to process refugees in large numbers, as it did in fiscal years 2020 and 2021. The department also said it needed to rebuild its staff and provide more resources after four years of neglect by the Trump administration.
“Significant additional investments in staffing and infrastructure in early FY 2022 will be necessary to build the foundation for higher numbers in subsequent years,” the department said in a report to Congress.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced more than 4.5 million Ukrainians to flee the country. The Biden administration has said it will accept up to 100,000 Ukrainians into the United States by whatever legal means are available, “including the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, parole, and visas.”
However, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an April 6 interview that “the normal refugee program” takes too long. “What we’re doing right now is looking at what are the legal pathways that we can do that because there’s the normal refugee program, but that, by definition, takes a long time,” Blinken said. “It takes a couple years.”
The latest information from the National Health Interview Survey shows that the percentage of Americans without health insurance dropped from 2020 to 2021. The estimates, which are early release figures subject to some final editing and weighting, are that 8.9% of the population lacked health insurance at the time they were interviewed in the third quarter of 2021. That’s compared with 9.7% in the third quarter of 2020 and 10.3% in the fourth quarter of 2020.
That’s a decrease of 1.4 percentage points from the last quarter of the Trump presidency to the third quarter of Biden’s.
The NHIS’ latest report doesn’t give estimates for the number of the uninsured, as opposed to the percentage. Its report for the first six months of 2021 had estimated the number of the uninsured dropped by about 500,000 in the first six months of 2021, compared with 2020. We’ll have to wait for the NHIS’ full-year estimates for updated figures.
Data for the NHIS are collected by the Census Bureau, which separately issues annual reports on the number lacking health insurance for the entire year. The report for 2021 is not expected until this coming fall.
In 2021, 11.3 million people were enrolled in Affordable Care Act exchange plans, through HealthCare.gov and state-run marketplaces. In this year’s open enrollment period, 14.5 million people were enrolled in plans for 2022, with 3 million of them being new consumers, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
In Biden’s first 11 months in office, there were more than 4.4 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 7% more than the 4.1 billion metric tons that were emitted from consuming those energy sources over the same stretch in 2020, the first year of the coronavirus pandemic. Emissions from coal and petroleum have increased under Biden, while emissions from natural gas have gone down slightly.
As of April, the EIA said it expects energy-related CO2 emissions to increase by 2% this year, “primarily from growing transportation-related petroleum consumption.” The EIA projects that petroleum and coal-related emissions will increase in 2022 by 4% and 3%, respectively, while natural gas emissions are projected to remain relatively flat.
Oil Production and Imports
U.S. crude oil production averaged roughly 11.37 million barrels per day during Biden’s most recent 12 months in office (ending in February), according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data published in March. That was 0.8% higher than the average daily amount of crude oil produced in 2020.
Through the first two months of 2022, the EIA estimates crude oil production averaged 11.61 million barrels per day — about 11% more than the average for the first two months of 2021. In its Short-Term Energy Outlook for April, the EIA said it expects production to average 12.0 million barrels per day in 2022, which would be a higher average than every year except 2019.
On the other hand, U.S. crude oil imports in Biden’s first full year increased to an average of nearly 6.2 million barrels per day — up 4.8% from 2020 imports. The EIA forecasts that the U.S. will remain a net importer of crude oil in 2022.
So far, the best available crime figures for Biden’s time in office come from the Major Cities Chiefs Association. It gathers information from law enforcement agencies in big cities, and it has data from 70 agencies for all of 2021. According to the association’s latest report, there were 9,548 homicides in those cities in 2021, up 6.2% from 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, homicides went up 32.7%, according to the association’s statistics gathered from 66 city law enforcement agencies.
The latest report shows aggravated assaults increased by 3.1% from 2020 to 2021, while the number of rapes went up by 4.3%. Robberies were down by 3.2%.
In 2020, aggravated assaults were also up, compared with 2019, but the number of rapes and robberies were both down.
Nationwide crime statistics from the FBI for the prior year are typically available in September; however, we may not get 2021 figures. The FBI said in March that a quarterly report for 2021 was based on data from only 52.5% of the 18,818 law enforcement agencies in the country, below the FBI’s 60% reporting threshold for providing trend data for the entire population. Therefore, the agency said it wouldn’t provide such data.
The Crime Report, a publication of the Center on Media, Crime & Justice at John Jay College, said one reason for the low response rate could be reduced staffing during the COVID-19 pandemic. We asked the FBI about this issue and whether it would publish nationwide statistics for 2021 later this year, but we have not received an answer.
Gun purchases continued to decline during the first quarter of 2022, according to estimates from the gun industry’s trade group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Since the federal government doesn’t collect data on gun sales, the NSSF 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-adjusted NICS total for background checks during the first three months of 2022 was more than 4.2 million – down about 23% from nearly 5.5 million in the first quarter of 2021, the group said.
Background checks for firearm sales in the first quarter of 2022 were 25% lower than the 5.63 million in the last quarter of 2020, when Trump was still in office.
Looking at the entirety of Biden’s time in office, stocks have done well, with the S&P 500 on April 13 closing 17% higher than it was the day before Biden was inaugurated.
Despite dire warnings from Trump that the stock market would crash if Biden were elected, stocks continued to soar through 2021. But 2022 has been a different story, with a 7.2% drop in the S&P 500 since the market’s peak in late December.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which is made up of 30 large corporations, is up 11.7% over the entirety of Biden’s presidency so far. But it is down 6.1% since its peak in early January.
The NASDAQ composite index, made up of more than 3,000 companies, including many in the technology sector, has risen 3.4% overall since Biden took office. But it has lost 15% since its peak in mid-November.
With the exception of a pandemic-induced plunge in stock prices in March 2020, the stock market has risen relatively steadily for a dozen years. The S&P 500 index rose 166% over the eight years Obama was in office, and it climbed another 67.8% during Trump’s four years. The pace of growth under Biden so far is about the same as under Trump, but it is currently trending in the wrong direction.
In remarks on Jan. 7, near the height of the stock market, Biden gloated about the continuation of the markets’ rise in 2021, saying, “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.” With stocks dropping since then, Biden hasn’t mentioned it publicly again.
Supreme Court — On April 7, Biden won confirmation for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. Her appointment fulfills Biden’s campaign promise that “as president, I’d be honored, honored to appoint the first African American woman to the court because it should look like the country. It’s long past time.”
Jackson, who was confirmed by a 53-47 Senate vote, will take the seat of retiring Justice Stephen Breyer this summer.
At the same point in his term, Trump also had won confirmation for one Supreme Court justice.
District Court — Forty-three Biden nominees have been confirmed to federal District Court judgeships, while Trump had won confirmation for 17 at the same point.
As of April 13, there were 76 federal court vacancies, with 19 nominees pending.
Fewer people are accessing benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, since Biden took office, according to the Department of Agriculture’s latest data.
As of December, the most recent month for which preliminary figures are available, 41.4 million people were receiving food assistance. The number has gone down by about 691,000, or 1.6%, since January 2021, when Biden took office. The number has inched up, however, since our last update in January. At that time, the latest data was from October 2021. By December, the number of people receiving food assistance had increased in two months by about 214,000.
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.
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