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Fact-checking U.S. economic claims in tumultuous Trump-Biden debate

09/30/2020 | 07:20am EST
U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in their first 2020 presidential campaign debate in Cleveland

U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden battled over the economy - and everything else - at their first ever head-to-head debate on Tuesday.

Trump said the United States is coming back "incredibly well" from the coronavirus shutdown, but Biden suggested it wasn't working right now for "all the small towns and working class towns in America."

Here are some of their claims and checks on their accuracy:


"We had 10.4 million people in a four-month period that we've put back in the workforce. That's a record the likes of which nobody's ever seen before.... Our country is coming back incredibly well," Trump said.

U.S. businesses did add 10.6 million jobs from April to August, Labor Department data shows, a record four-month period.

However, that's also just under half the 22.1 million jobs lost from February to April, as the coronavirus led to shutdowns of schools and offices nationwide.

(GRAPHIC - Jobs fell off a cliff: https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-ELECTION/ECONOMY-DATA/xlbvglzxepq/chart.png)

Employment in U.S. manufacturing - a sector that Trump said Tuesday he had revived - is 720,000 jobs short of February's level.

"Millionaires and billionaires like him...have done very well," Biden said of Trump. The combined wealth of billionaires jumped in the weeks after the coronavirus lockdowns, the Institute for Policy Studies found.


Biden claimed Trump has "done nothing to help small businesses."

Trump signed Congress' $2.3 trillion pandemic relief package in March, which created the Paycheck Protection Program that distributed about $525 billion in forgivable loans to more than 5 million small businesses.

The program expired before it was fully tapped out, leaving $130 billion unused. Federal Reserve officials have sounded loud warnings in recent days that much needed to be done to keep small businesses afloat.


"We handed him a booming economy. He blew it," Biden said, while Trump claimed, "We built the greatest economy in history."

As vice president, Biden helped oversee the recovery from the 2007-2009 financial crisis, which took years. In President Barack Obama's second term the economy added about 2.5 million jobs per year. That's better than the around 2.1 million per year during Trump's first three years in office.

By February, just before the coronavirus crisis hit, unemployment was plumbing 50-year lows, helping boost wages for those making the least and drawing in more workers from the sidelines than many economists had thought possible.


"When the stock market goes up, that means jobs,"

Trump said.

Stock prices typically track investor expectations for future corporate earnings and do not necessarily mean more jobs, especially right now.

While the economy has recouped only half the jobs lost since the crisis began, the S&P 500 Index had regained its entire 35% loss by August, climbing to a new record in early September before falling again, ending Thursday a little more than 1% below its February closing high.

(GRAPHIC - Trump's stock market: https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-ELECTION/ECONOMY/qmyvmbqrnpr/chart.png)

By Ann Saphir

© Reuters 2020
Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
DJ INDUSTRIAL -0.57% 30996.98 Delayed Quote.1.86%
NASDAQ 100 -0.29% 13366.396971 Delayed Quote.3.71%
NASDAQ COMP. 0.09% 13543.061633 Delayed Quote.4.99%
S&P 500 -0.30% 3841.47 Delayed Quote.2.27%
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