Treasury chief Yellen touts GDP numbers as a boon to the middle class

WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen praised the positive economic growth numbers on Thursday as a benefit for the middle class.

“Though some forecasters thought a recession last year was inevitable, President [Joe] Biden and I did not,” Yellen said in a visit to the Economic Club of Chicago. “Instead of contracting, the economy has continued to grow, driven by American workers and President Biden’s economic strategy.”

The report released by the Commerce Department showed gross domestic product grew by a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 3.3% for the last few months of 2023; more rapidly than the Wall Street consensus estimate of 2%.

Economic growth for all of 2023 also beat the Wall Street outlook at the start of the year.

The indicators are evidence of “the fairest recovery on record,” said Yellen, adding that the U.S. has “avoided financial pain for most middle-class American families” due to a strong post-pandemic recovery with faster relief from inflation than comparable countries.

Consumer spending, measured by core prices for personal consumption expenditures, also rose 2% in Q4 while the headline rate was 1.7%. The Federal Reserve uses core prices to measure longer-term inflation. The rate of inflation reached record highs in 2022.

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Yellen credited steps taken by the Biden administration to curb supply chain scarcities that led to price increases, including the release of 180 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and a price cap on Russian oil as the Russia-Ukraine War escalated in 2022.

“Though we’re focused on making historic investments in transitioning towards clean energy in the medium-and long-term, record domestic oil and natural gas production addressed our immediate needs,” Yellen said. “And energy prices have declined, with gas now down around $1.90 per gallon from its high in June 2022.”

AAA quotes the average national price for a gallon of gas at $3.10 as of Thursday.

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