On Jan. 26, 2023, a Twitter user with over 64,000 followers tweeted, "3 years ago today, gas was $2 a gallon. Eggs were $1 a dozen. Mortgage rates were 3%. Inflation was less than 1%. We had full employment, economic growth, and world peace. What happened?"
It was seen close to 7 million times in just 24 hours. It received over 20,000 retweets and 100,000 likes, likely with plenty more to come.
The tweet, which said "3 years ago today," took us back to January 2020. We looked for evidence to confirm the figures presented.
While some of the data in the tweet was true, other parts were erroneous or misleading.
'Gas Was $2 a Gallon'
According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average national price of regular U.S. gas on Jan. 20, 2020, was $2.54 per gallon, which wasn't really too close to a flat $2, which is what the tweet claimed. By Jan. 27, the price fell to $2.51. At the time, Trump was beginning his fourth year in office. He left the White House in January 2021 after being defeated by U.S. President Joe Biden.
By comparison, as of Jan. 23, 2023, the average price on the same chart showed as $3.42, a marked increase over 2020.
In the weeks following January 2020, gas prices fell even further. The Associated Press reported in May 2021 that the reason why gas prices dipped to $1.84 in April 2020 was due to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., which led to an unprecedented drop in demand for fuel.
Gasoline prices didn't fall because of the Trump administration, as Trump often claims; they plunged because of the coronavirus forcing people to abandon their offices, schools, business trips and vacations.
Underscoring the connection to the pandemic shutdown, U.S. gas prices were at their lowest in April 2020 when people were staying home most but have mostly risen since then, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration, even when Trump was still in office.
We previously reported on the variety of reasons for higher gas prices in 2021 and 2022. Those factors included Russia's invasion of Ukraine, "a rapid and unexpected bounce-back in demand" following the first year of the pandemic, the forced shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline after a ransomware attack, and "a loss of refining capacity in California and Ohio," among other possible reasons.
'Eggs Were $1 a Dozen'
To find egg prices from January 2020, we ran a custom report for retail prices on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service.
According to data from Jan. 24, 2020, a dozen conventional, Grade A, and large eggs averaged about $0.98 for white and $0.99 for brown. Cage-free, brown, and large eggs cost $2.65. Omega-3, white, and large eggs averaged $2.16. Meanwhile, organic, brown, and large eggs cost $3.42.
As for January 2023, not all of the data was available, as at the time we published this story the month wasn't yet over. However, we found that a dozen conventional, Grade A, and large eggs averaged nationally about $2.92 for white and $3.00 for brown, with prices for cage-free, Omega-3, and organic going slightly higher. Organic, brown, and large eggs showed the highest price at $4.99. Again, these are national figures. Some regions saw higher averages than others, such as California which saw large shell eggs priced at $5.97 per dozen for the week ending Jan. 20.
On Jan. 24, KXAN.com published an interview with Stephanie Klein, an extension program specialist with Texas A&M's Department of Poultry Science. According to the reporting, the reason for higher egg prices in late 2022 and early 2023 had to do with fuel costs for trucks, rising inflation, and "a severe outbreak of avian influenza among many species of birds, including egg-laying hens in commercial facilities."
'Mortgage Rates Were 3%'
According to Rocket Mortgage, "When January 2020 came around, the average rate for a 30-year fixed was about 3.7%." By late January, the rates fell to around 3.51%. In other words, it wasn't a flat 3% in January 2020.
After mentioning January 2020, the Rocket Mortgage article continued:
Then COVID-19 hit the United States. In response, the Federal Reserve dropped the federal funds rate to between 0% – 0.25%. This caused other short-term and long-term rates to drop.
This move was made to encourage borrowing on home loans, as well as other loans. It also led to a large increase in refinance and mortgage applications. By December, Freddie Mac reported an average mortgage rate for a 30-year FRM sitting at 2.68%.
As for 2023, Bankrate.com reported that, as of Jan. 27, the "current average 30-year fixed-mortgage rate" was 6.45%, which was notably higher than in early 2020.
'Inflation Was Less Than 1%'
According to data from the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), inflation was 2.5% in January 2020, not "less than 1%."
On the flip side, inflation was 6.5% in December 2022, which was the most recent data that was available.
A report from NBC News said that "supply chain issues, surging demand, production costs, and swaths of relief funds all have a role to play" in rising inflation during the early part of Biden's time in the White House. The article also mentioned that "politics tend to cause one to point the finger at the supply chain or the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 as the main culprits."
'We Had Full Employment'
According to data from the BLS, the unemployment rate in January 2020 was the exact same in December 2022, which was the most recent data available. Both numbers showed as 3.5%. In other words, the claim in the tweet was factually correct, but the implication that unemployment was worse in January 2023 than it was in January 2020 was misleading.
Unemployment jumped to 14.7% in April 2020, right at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
'We Had Economic Growth'
Pinning down economic growth isn't quite as simple as listing the prices of gas and eggs. However, methods such as gross national product (GNP) and gross domestic product (GDP) "can be employed to assess economic growth," Investopedia.com reported. Still, the article added that GDP alone "does not indicate the health of an economy."
Reporting from The Associated Press on Jan. 16, 2020, said that, "in the United States, the world's largest economy, GDP growth of 2.9% in 2018 slowed to 2.2% in 2019 and is projected to fall further to 1.7% in 2020 with a slight increase to 1.8% in 2021."
However, this data for 2020 was presented before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S.
According to Macrotrends.net, the GDP growth rate for 2020 was -3.4%, a 5.69% decline from 2019.
GNP also fell in 2020 following growth in previous years. "U.S. gnp for 2020 was $21,261.27B, a 1.84% decline from 2019," the data said. As for 2021, Biden's first year in office, GNP increased by 9.94%. This story will be updated if a number for 2022 becomes available.
'We Had World Peace'
The last claim mentioned that the world was at peace in January 2020. This was somewhat of a subjective claim.
In the months prior to January 2020, the world had seen North Korea fire a number of missiles, the deaths of U.S. servicemembers in Afghanistan, and mass killings believed to be associated with Mexican drug cartels, just to name a few.
Also, during the month of January 2020, there was the U.S. drone strike that killed a powerful Iranian commander, Iran's shooting down of a Ukrainian airplane that left 176 people dead, as well as attacks on Syrian civilians.
The tweet may have been vaguely referencing the fact that Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, a conflict that continued through the time when he posted his tweet. The war has since been a fixture in world news reports, with daily updates about various incidents in the region.