A Run of Strong Data Buoys Biden on the Economy

A Run of Strong Data Buoys Biden on the Economy

President Biden and his aides are basking in what is arguably the best run of economic data to date in his presidency. Inflation is cooling, business investment is rising, job growth is powering on and surveys suggest rising economic optimism among consumers and voters.

Polls still show Mr. Biden remains underwater on his handling of the economy, with voters more likely to disapprove of his performance than approve of it. Yet there are signs that voters may be brightening their assessment of the economy under Mr. Biden, in part thanks to the mounting effects of the infrastructure, manufacturing and climate bills he has signed into law.

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The run of positive economic news comes as his administration looks to credit “Bidenomics” for a sustained run of positive data.

The economy grew at a 2.4 percent annual rate in the second quarter of the year, handily beating economists’ expectations, the Commerce Department reported last week. Price growth slowed in June even as consumer spending picked up. The Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of year-over-year inflation, the Personal Consumption Expenditures Index, has now fallen to 3 percent this year from about 7 percent last June — easing the pressure on Mr. Biden from the economic problem that has bedeviled his presidency thus far.

And in less visible but significant ways, there are signs that Mr. Biden’s signature economic policies may be starting to bear fruit, most notably in a steep rise in factory construction. Government data released Tuesday showed that boom continued in June, with spending on manufacturing facilities up nearly 80 percent over the previous year. The manufacturing sector as a whole has added nearly 800,000 jobs since Mr. Biden took office and now employs the most people since 2008.

“The public policy changes that have been put in place over the past two years are now starting to show up in the data,” said Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM. He said the increased investment was “undoubtedly linked” to government policies, in particular the CHIPS Act, which aimed to promote domestic manufacturing, and the Inflation Reduction Act, which targeted low-emission energy technologies to combat climate change.

As Mr. Biden gears up for his re-election campaign, perhaps what is most encouraging to him is that consumer confidence is rising to levels not seen since the early months of his tenure in the White House, before inflation surged. Measures by the University of Michigan and the Conference Board suggest consumers have grown happier with the current state of the economy and more hopeful about the year ahead.

That change in attitude may reflect an underlying economic reality: The combination of cooling inflation, low unemployment and rising pay means that American workers are seeing their standard of living improve. Hourly wages outpaced price gains in the spring for the first time in two years, giving consumers more purchasing power.

National opinion polls still show a sour economic mood — but it appears to be improving slightly.

In a new New York Times/Siena College poll, 49 percent of respondents rated the economy as “poor,” compared with 20 percent who called it “excellent” or “good.” That’s an improvement from last summer, when 58 percent of Americans in another Times/Siena poll called the economy “poor” and just 10 percent rated it “excellent” or “good.

Administration officials attribute the economy’s strength, particularly in the labor market, to the direct aid to individuals, businesses and state and local governments that was included in the $1.9 trillion stimulus package that Mr. Biden signed into law in 2021.

Economists generally blame that same stimulus package for some of the rapid spike in inflation that ensued largely after its passage. But the recent moderation in price growth is emboldening officials to cite the bill as more of a positive factor, saying it helped keep consumers spending and businesses operating, speeding the return to a low unemployment rate. Source

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