Fact check: Claim about inflation from 2017 to 2022 misses the mark

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The claim: An image shows inflation rates from 2017 to 2022

In April 1980, inflation rates reached more than 14%, a period dubbed the "Great Inflation." Some social media users claim inflation has spiked to that same level under President Joe Biden.

Eric Trump, son of former president Donald Trump, shared a Facebook post on April 9 that lists purported inflation rates from 2017 to 2022:

Inflation rate:
2017 Trump – 1.7%
2018 Trump – 1.65%
2019 Trump – 1.7%
2020 Trump – 1.4%
2021 Biden – 14%
2022 Biden – 14.9%
The facts are clear.

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The post generated close to 12,000 interactions and close to 600 shares in less than a week. Similar posts have amassed hundreds of interactions on Facebook and Twitter.

But the claim is false. While there has been an inflation spike in 2021 and 2022, it's not as high as the post claims.

USA TODAY reached out to Eric Trump and social media users who shared the claim for comment.

Numbers in post aren't accurate

The most well-known measure of inflation is the consumer price index (CPI) calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, according to the Brookings Institution.

The index tracks the change in the cost of a "basket" of 80,000 goods typical consumers purchases each month, William Hauk, an economics professor at the University of South Carolina, told USA TODAY in an email. Inflation occurs when this basket becomes more expensive over time.

Inflation is calculated on a monthly basis, but annual inflation can be calculated by either averaging the inflation for each month or examining only the December figure reported at the end of each year. Based on CPI figures, those calculations show the following percentage change year over year:

Inflation - monthly average

  • 2017: 2.1%

  • 2018: 2.5%

  • 2019: 1.8%

  • 2020: 1.2%

  • 2021: 4.7%

  • 2022 through March: 7%

Inflation - December of each year

  • 2017: 2.1%

  • 2018: 1.9%

  • 2019: 2.3%

  • 2020: 1.4%

  • 2021: 7%

  • 2022: not applicable

Neither approach generates figures in line with Eric Trump's Facebook post. There is also little chance the inflation rate rises to 14% in the near future, Sarah House, an economist at Wells Fargo, told USA TODAY.

"At 8.5%, March is likely to mark the peak in inflation this cycle," House said. "The level of prices is very likely to continue to rise throughout this year, but the pace is expected to moderate as consumer spending slows."

Various factors led to inflation spike

Though the post significantly overstates the increase, inflation has indeed jumped in 2021 and 2022. A combination of monetary and fiscal policies designed to speed economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the spike, Jason Furman, an economist at Harvard University, told USA TODAY in an email.

The Federal Reserve has kept interest rates near zero, which has made it easier for people to borrow money, Furman said. The 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security package and the 2021 American Rescue Plan sent checks to households to help combat pandemic-related unemployment.

With these measures staving off a recession, consumer spending and demand – which was pent-up during the pandemic – increased and drove up prices.

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"The effects probably weren’t seen that much in 2020 inflation because, during the height of the pandemic, unemployment rates were high and consumers were largely staying home, so the money was either replacing lost income or people weren’t able to spend much of it," Hauk said.

Supply chains in certain areas have been unable to keep up with the rising consumer demand and shortage of labor, which has also pushed prices higher. Flexport, a company that arranges shipments, told USA TODAY last month that delivery time from Asian factories to West Coast ports is about 110 days, which is an increase of 40 to 50 days compared to before the pandemic.

More recently, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to disruptions in the food market and increased oil prices, which account for a large fraction of inflation, Hauk said.

"Combine all these factors together, and you have a recipe for higher prices," Hauk said.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that an image shows inflation rates from 2017 to 2022. The inflation rates listed in the post are not accurate. Inflation has spiked amid the pandemic recovery and ongoing supply chain issues, but it has only reached about half the level claimed in the post.

Our fact-check sources:

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Post online overstates inflation under Biden