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Trump Took Credit for the ‘Lowest Rate Ever Recorded’ of African-American Unemployment. The Reality Is More Complex

January 31, 2018, 4:23 AM UTC

President Donald Trump once again touted a record-low unemployment rate among African Americans in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, crediting his administration’s policies for the improvement.

“African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded, and Hispanic-American unemployment has also reached the lowest levels in history,” Trump said at the top of his State of the Union speech, while listing the accomplishments of his administration during his first year of his presidency.

Numerically, Trump’s claim about the current African-American unemployment rate is true: In December 2017, it was 6.8 percent, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is the lowest unemployment rate since 1972, the earliest date for which the BLS provides data. But attributing the reduced rate to Trump’s policies is more complicated.

The unemployment rate among African Americans has been steadily declining since March 2010, when 16.8 percent of African Americans were unemployed. By the time Trump entered office in January of 2017, the African American unemployment rate had already decreased 9 points. While Trump was in office, it decreased by one point — keeping up a trend that had already been in place.

It’s a similar situation with the Hispanic unemployment rate, which was also at a record low of 4.9 percent in December of 2017, according to BLS statistics. That number has also been declining steadily since March 2010, when it was 12.9 percent. Like the African-American unemployment rate, the Hispanic unemployment rate only declined one point during Trump’s first year in office.

Moreover, both the African-American and Hispanic unemployment rates are still higher than the overall U.S. unemployment rate, which was 4.1 percent in December of 2017.

Trump’s State of the Union address was not the first time he touted the low African-American unemployment rate. Most recently, Jay-Z said the low unemployment rate doesn’t compensate for Trump’s treatment of African Americans in an interview with CNN’s Van Jones, and he took to Twitter to fire back at the rapper.

During his campaign, Trump made headlines when he offered African-Americans a novel argument for why they should vote for him. “What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump?” he said at the time. “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose?”

That time, though, Trump was wrong about the statistics surrounding the youth unemployment rate. The African-American youth unemployment rate at the time, according to Politifact, was actually about half of that — 27.1 percent.