Home/Articles/What’s the state of the union after President Biden’s first year?
President Joe Biden will give his first State of the Union address on March 1. Regardless of who holds the presidency, the speech often paints the state of our union as “strong” and on the “right” track.
Between Congress and two different White House administrations, the federal government acted on a wide range of issues in 2021. In his final weeks in office, former President Donald Trump signed 12 executive orders and presidential memoranda. President Biden signed 101. Last year, Congress passed 81 bills and agencies implemented 291 significant rule changes. These actions addressed issues related to defense, the environment, the economy and jobs, and the standard of living for Americans.
Fewer people are working or looking for work than before the pandemic. However, there were nearly 11 million job openings as of December 2021, close to a record high. Average hourly earnings increased by 10% between February 2020 and December 2021. But inflation – which is at the highest it's been since 1982 – muted these wage gains. After accounting for inflation, hourly earnings increased 1.6% over this period.
Congress increased spending in response to the pandemic in 2020 and spending remained elevated in 2021. Last year, the government spent $6.8 trillion, 46% higher than in 2019. Revenues also increased. The $2.8 trillion budget deficit was smaller than in 2020 but remains higher than in 2019.
Much of last year's pandemic-response spending was for additional federal government money to states and local governments, support for business, education, and public health.
More than 50% of increased federal spending between 2019 and 2021 went towards assistance to individuals which nearly tripled to $1.4 trillion. The assistance came in a variety of forms such as COVID-19 direct payments, Medicaid spending, nutrition assistance, and the expanded refundable child tax credit.
The COVID-19 pandemic had far-reaching impacts from an increased federal budget deficit to reduced carbon emissions and prison populations, to the human toll of nearly 1 million American lives lost. But COVID-19 is also occurring against a backdrop of a changing American population.
US population growth has slowed, particularly starting in 2016, but it was slower last year than in any year since our nation’s founding. People died at a higher rate last year while births and net migration declined.
US population growth was slower last year than in any year since our nation’s founding
The country is also getting more racially and ethnically diverse with Hispanic Americans accounting for more than half of all population growth between 2010 and 2020. The non-Hispanic white population dropped below 60%, according to the 2020 census.
A larger share of Americans are 65 or older, increasing from 11.3% in 1980 to 16.8% in 2020.