June 22, 2021

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Fact check: Online post misses the mark on gas prices, job growth, inflation

7 min read

The claim: Gas prices are the highest in 10 years, job growth is the worst in 20 years, inflation is the highest in 30 years and illegal immigration is at its highest level in 40 years

The U.S. continues to crawl out from under the COVID-19 pandemic, but a widely shared Facebook post misses the mark on several indicators about the state of the country.

“Gas prices highest in a decade. Worst jobs report in 2 decades. Highest inflation in 3 decades. Highest increase in illegal immigration in 4 decades,” according to the May 17 post that has been shared more than 1,400 times. “Y’all killed it with your emotional voting skills!”

A picture of a tuxedo-clad Bugs Bunny stares, unamused, at the reader.

Gas prices and inflation indeed are rising, and the April jobs report missed economists’ expectations. More migrants have tried to enter the United States in the last several months as well.

But the post is wrong at almost every turn. Gas prices are not their highest of the decade. Job gains in April were far from the worst of the last 20 years, too; the U.S. lost more than 20 million jobs in April 2020 alone. Inflation was higher at the start of the Great Recession.

Illegal immigration is more complicated to track, but apprehensions along the southwest border haven’t yet reached a 40-year record.

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The Facebook user who shared the post did not respond to a request for comment.

Gas prices

The national average price for a gallon of regular gas was about $3.03 on May 26, according to GasBuddy and the AAA auto club.

Gas prices haven’t been that high since 2014, but they aren’t the highest in a decade – making this part of the claim FALSE.

The last time the national average gas price was that high was Oct. 28, 2014, according to daily price data provided by AAA to USA TODAY. Prices were above $3 a gallon every day for nearly 2.5 years beginning on May 26, 2012.

Since the end of October 2014, the price of a gallon of gas hadn’t hit $3 until May 12, but it already was on the rise after sinking during the COVID-19 pandemic as fewer people commuted to work and school and scrapped travel plans.

Caution tape is wrapped around fuel pumps at an Exxon Gas Station on Boonsboro Road in Lynchburg, Va., May 11, 2021.

AAA and Gasbuddy both expected $3 gas in 2021, but AAA spokeswoman Jeannette Casselano said it arrived earlier than anticipated because of the Colonial Pipeline’s temporary shutdown following a ransomware attack.

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Part of the reason for the increase is higher demand. AAA expects the number of travelers driving for the Memorial Day weekend to approach pre-pandemic levels, Casselano said. The price of oil also factors into the cost of gas.

Jobs report

The jobs report was not the worst of the last two decades– so this part of the claim is FALSE.

In May, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released an April jobs report that showed non-farm employment had increased from the previous month by 266,000 to about 144.3 million jobs.

It wasn’t the worst jobs report of the last 12 months, let alone the last 20 years. The U.S. lost more than 20 million jobs in April 2020 as the economy cratered under the weight of lockdowns at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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A hiring banner outside a McDonald's in Stanton, Calif., on May 17, 2021.

Since 2000, the economy has added fewer than 266,000 jobs 15 times in April. It hasn’t posted a better jobs report in April since 2015, according to a USA TODAY analysis of BLS data.

The April jobs report missed some economists’ expectations for about 1 million jobs to be added in April. Oxford Economics called the miss “one of the largest on record.”

Inflation

Inflation is not the highest in three decades, as the post claims.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics measures inflation in day-to-day living expenses using the Consumer Price Index, which calculates the prices urban consumers pay for a basket of goods and services. It collects prices in 75 urban areas from about 6,000 housing units and 22,000 retail establishments.

A shopper pushes her basket filled with purchases past a sign advising the need to wear face masks while in a Safeway grocery store in Aurora, Colo. on May 19, 2021.

In April, the index rose 4.2% over the previous year, meaning the cost of living expenses increased by 4.2% over the last 12 months.

The increase in April was the highest inflation since September 2008, though, not the last 30 years– making this part of the claim FALSE.

Inflation in September 2008 was 4.9%, according to BLS.

Inflation was 4.2% or higher in 11 different months since April 2001, the earliest data available from BLS.

Immigration

Migrant encounters have increased since the start of 2021 along the U.S.-Mexico border. However, assessing whether it is the “highest increase in illegal immigration in four decades” is difficult. We conclude, therefore, that this part of the claim is MISSING CONTEXT, because without additional information it could be misleading.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported encountering about 178,000 people attempting to enter the country on the southwest border in April, up from  about 173,000 in March and 101,000 in February.

The surge followed a steady uptick since the start of the pandemic. In April 2020, migrant encounters on the southwest border dropped to about 17,000, according to the agency, but have increased every month.

In March 2020, the Trump administration began using a policy called Title 42, which allows expulsion of undocumented migrants to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in holding facilities. While President Joe Biden has sought to unwind Trump-era immigration policies, his administration has continued to use Title 42.

More:Joe Biden’s immigration agenda overshadowed by migrant challenges in first 100 days

That policy accounts for most of the recent encounters Customs and Border Patrol has reported. In April, about 63% of the agency’s encounters on the southwest border were logged under Title 42.

The addition of Title 42 expulsions makes comparing historical data about southern border crossings difficult.

May 17, 2021: A group of migrants mainly from Honduras and Nicaragua wait along a road after turning themselves in upon crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in La Joya, Texas.

Customs and Border Patrol historical data on southwest border apprehensions, done under a separate legal authority called Title 8, show a peak of more than 1.6 million from October 1999 to September 2000, the agency’s fiscal year.

Since October 2020, the start of the current fiscal year, the agency has reported 749,613 total encounters, which includes Title 8 apprehensions and inadmissible individuals and Title 42 expulsions. Apprehensions accounted for 188,191 of that total.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates about 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants lived in the U.S. in 2018, the most recent year for which its data are available. The unauthorized immigrant population hovered between 10.5 million and 12 million from 2005 to 2018, according to the department’s January 2021 report.

Our rating: False

Overall, the claim that gas prices are the highest in 10 years, job growth is the worst in 20 years, inflation is at its highest level in 30 years and illegal immigration has increased to it highest level in 40 years is FALSE. Gas prices were higher in 2014. The U.S. lost more than 20 million jobs in April 2020. Inflation was higher in 2008 than it is now. Encounters along the southern border have been increasing over the last year, but data for the full fiscal year are not yet available. The addition of Title 42 expulsions also complicates historical comparisons of apprehensions on the southwest border.

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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