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Obama's first four years in office – then vs. now

Is the nation better off than it was four years ago?

The answer largely depends on the statistics you pick.

With President Barack Obama beginning his second term less than a week from now, there are plenty of numbers suggesting that the country is on more solid footing than it was when he first took office on Jan. 20, 2009.

The Dow Jones Industrial average is up 5,550 points since then. The economy is growing (instead of contracting). Consumer confidence has nearly doubled (though it remains below where it was before the Great Recession). And a larger percentage of Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction (but a majority still think it’s on the wrong track).

On the other hand, there’s data indicating that the nation isn’t better off than it was four years ago – and that the Great Recession continues to take a toll on families. Median household income (adjusted for inflation) is lower than it was in 2009. And more Americans live below the poverty level than they did four years ago.

And some numbers are exactly the same. The current unemployment rate is at 7.8%, which is where it was in Jan. 2009 (though it’s down from a high of 10% in Oct. 2009). And right now, there are roughly 49 million Americans without health insurance, which is identical to where it was in 2009. (The health-insurance mandate under the health-care law doesn’t kick in until 2014.)

Here are other figures over the last four years:

-- The number of U.S. troops in Iraq has dwindled from nearly 140,000 to just 200, while the presence in Afghanistan has increased from 34,000 to 66,000.

-- The federal public debt has increased from $10.6 trillion in Jan. 2009 to $16.4 trillion now.

-- The number of Democrats serving in the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and in governorships across the country has declined.

Below is a look at Obama’s presidency – so far – by the numbers. The “then” figure is the best-available figure for when Obama was taking office in 2009. And the “now” is the most recent figure. First Read, in 2009, ran a statistical then-vs.-now comparison of George W. Bush’s presidency.


Unemployment rate

Then: 7.8% (Jan. 2009)

Now: 7.8%  (Dec. 2012)


Dow Jones Industrial Average

Then: 7,949.09 (close as of Jan. 20, 2009)

Now: 13,534.89 (close as of Jan. 15, 2013)


Gross Domestic Product

Then: -5.3% (1st quarter of 2009)

Now: +3.1% (3rd quarter of 2012)


Consumer Confidence (1985=100)

Then: 37.4 (Jan. 2009)

Now: 65.1 (Dec. 2012)


Americans who believe the country is headed in the right direction

Then: 26% of adults (Jan. 2009 NBC/WSJ poll)

Now: 41% of adults (Dec. 2012 NBC/WSJ poll)


Median household income (adjusted for inflation)

Then: $52,195 (Census data for 2009)

Now: $50,054 (Census data for 2011)


Americans living below the poverty level

Then: 43.6 million (Census data for 2009)

Now: 46.2 million (Census data for 2011)


Americans without health insurance

Then: 49.0 million (Census data for 2009)

Now: 48.6 million (Census data for 2011)


Americans receiving food stamps

Then: 33.5 million (average for 2009)

Now: 46.6 million (average for 2012)


Federal budget deficit

Then: -1.4 trillion (FY 2009)

Now: -$1.1 trillion (FY 2012 projected)


Federal public debt

Then: $10.6 trillion (Jan. 20, 2009)

Now: $16.4 trillion (Jan. 14, 2013)


Federal spending as a percentage of GDP

Then: 25.2% (FY 2009)

Now: 24.3% (FY 2012 projected)


Median sales price of new homes

Then: $208,600 (Jan. 2009)

Now: $246,200 (Nov. 2012)


Number of Democrats in U.S. House of Representatives

Then: 257 (2009)

Now: 201 (2013)


Number of Democrats (plus independents caucusing with Dems) in U.S. Senate

Then: 58 (Jan. 2009)

Now: 55 (Jan. 2013)


Number of Democratic governors

Then: 28 (2009)

Now: 19 (2013)


Number of U.S. troops in Iraq

Then: 139,500 (Jan. 2009)

Now: 200 (Jan. 2013)


Number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan

Then: 34,400 (Jan. 2009)

Now: 66,000 (Jan. 2013)


NBC’s Courtney Kube contributed to this article.