Neither Biden Nor Trump’s Claims About Black Unemployment Rates Match the Numbers

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Donald Trump spoke at a community roundtable Saturday in Detroit, Michigan, where he argued that his administration had done more for black Americans than Joe Biden’s. “We’ve done more for—and I say this, I say it proudly—more for the black population than any president since Abraham Lincoln,” Trump told the crowd. “We achieved the lowest African American unemployment rate and the lowest African American poverty rate ever recorded, ever, ever recorded, during my four years.”

Biden’s campaign quickly punched back, arguing that the lowest black unemployment rate was recorded under Biden’s administration and the highest was under Trump. “FACT CHECK: This is a total lie. President Biden presided over the lowest Black unemployment rate ever recorded, not Trump. Trump presided over record HIGH Black unemployment,” Biden-Harris HQ, an official campaign account, posted on Threads.

The Biden campaign is correct that the lowest unemployment rate among black Americans on record occurred during Biden’s administration. However, it is not true that Trump presided over record high black unemployment, even though unemployment did temporarily rise during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ignoring the temporary impact of the pandemic, the black unemployment rate declined substantially to a then-record low during the Trump administration.

Unemployment Rate

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began recording the black or African American unemployment rate in January 1973. Before 2017, the rate ranged from a high of 21.7 percent in June 1983 to a low of 6.5 percent in April 2000.

Black unemployment rate from 1972-2016. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Black unemployment rate from 1972-2016. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

When Trump took office in January 2017, the unemployment rate for black Americans was 7.6 percent. Under his administration, the rate fell to a low of 5.1 percent—the lowest rate ever recorded at the time—in September 2019. Unemployment rose again across the board in early 2020, however, hitting a peak of 16.6 percent for black Americans in May 2020—the highest recorded since August 2011 (17.0 percent)—as economic shocks from the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns rolled through the country.

By the time Trump left office in January 2021, the black unemployment rate had declined to slightly below 10 percent. This decline continued under Biden, and unemployment among black Americans reached a new record low of 4.4 percent in April 2023. As of May 2024—the most recent month recorded—black unemployment was 6.0 percent.

Black unemployment rate since January 2017. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Black unemployment rate since January 2017. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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