By now, it should be no surprise that President Donald Trump likes to claim credit for nearly everything. This is including, but not limited to the economy, farm bailouts, the Middle East, decimating Isis and immigration reform, to name a few. While none of these accomplishments are exactly accurate, Trump is notorious for sharing ambiguously good news to support his agenda during high-profile interviews and via Twitter.
Trump’s latest rhetoric suggests that he has decreased the African-American unemployment rate since entering office in January 2017. At the top of 2018 via Twitter, he bragged that “because of my policies, Black unemployment has just been reported to be at the lowest rate ever recorded.”
Most recently, he shared during February’s State of the Union address saying that “African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American unemployment have all reached their lowest levels ever recorded.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of June 2019 the Black unemployment rate is 6 percent compared to 3.7 percent nationally. This rate is down 9 percent compared to last year (6.6 percent) and 22 percent when compared to the month Trump took office (7.7 percent). Although the unemployment rate among African-Americans has dropped to a record-breaking low, this poses a conflicting question for the community. Does Trump have the right to claim he decreased the African-American unemployment rate?
While a 6 percent African-American unemployment rate is a major accomplishment, Trump’s spin on this statistical claim is dangerously misleading. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has shown that the downward turn began long before Trump entered the White House. The rate has steadily declined for the past eight years.
“Trump needs to step up his game,” said Marline Hodson, a 64-year-old retired nurse who is fearful of the job market for her grandchildren. “He’s a leader. He shouldn’t throw out inaccurate stuff like that.”
Critics believe Trump should be judged by his inability to close the persistent racial disparity among the unemployed. The BLS reports, as of June 2019, African-American workers have the highest unemployment rate nationally at 6 percent, followed by Latino workers (4.3 percent), White workers (3.3 percent), and Asian workers (2.1 percent). Nationally, African-American unemployment has been at least twice as high as White unemployment for decades. Even though the Black unemployment rate is lower, this is an insignificant truth upon viewing the nation and this racial disparity as a whole.
“The annual Black unemployment rate has only been in the single digits 10 of the last 47 years that the BLS has reported it,” said the EPI. “In the last 65 years that BLS has reported the white unemployment rate, it has always been below 10 percent.”
According to the Employment Development Department (EDD) for the State of California, in May 2019, the California unemployment rate was 4.2 percent, while it remained 3.6 percent in Los Angeles County. California’s Black unemployment rate decreased slightly when comparing May 2019 (6.2 percent) to December 2018 (6.5 percent).
“After 111 months of continuous economic expansion—the second longest expansion on record—unemployment rates generally are at historic and sometimes record lows. This tends to be true across regions of the state and across demographic groups. Black unemployment rates may be at record lows, but the same might also be said of other racial and ethnic groups,” said an EDD State of California media services representative.
Given the constant decline of the nation’s unemployment rate, it is safe to say Trump’s rhetoric does not match reality. It is inaccurate to credit this achievement to his economic agenda when it is a continuation of President Obama’s efforts. More credit can be awarded to local employment-preparation outlets, such as the Inglewood One-Stop Career Center, that has worked for years to decrease the rate from a staggering 16 percent since 2011. As well, the Maxine Waters Employment Preparation Center in Watts has realized similar success in placing more African-Americans onto the job rolls.
“What we’re doing benefits individuals who historically have had a hard time getting a job,” said Jan Vogel, executive director of the South Bay Workforce Investment Board. “We have a number of programs to help people not only get a job, but also stay employed. Now, we are working very closely with the population that’s getting out of prison. That group has a high unemployment rate. Many companies are now open to hiring and serving these individuals. This wasn’t always the case.”
Inglewood One-Stop Career Center is a local business and career center that provides the community with access to a wide range of services from career counseling and placement assistance to professional training. In partnership with local businesses, the center is committed to equipping the underemployed with skills essential for participation in today’s market.
“I was unemployed for about a year and half before finding a job after visiting the job board [at the One-Stop career center],” said Latoya Hodson, a 42-year-old Inglewood resident. “It took me that long to find a job that only paid $9 an hour. Keep in mind, that was 12 years ago. Nowadays, it’s really bad.”
California’s Black unemployment rate is not the worst in the country. According to the EPI, during the fourth quarter of 2018 the Black unemployment rate was lowest in Virginia (4.3 percent) and Florida (5.1 percent), and highest in the District of Columbia (11.8 percent) and Pennsylvania (8.9 percent). Thanks to the various economic development projects happening across the state, Californians will continue to see this rate improve. According to the California EDD, in May 2019 the state gained roughly 19,000 non-farm jobs mainly in the construction and hospitality industries. These gains accounted for roughly 26 percent of the nation’s total 75,000 job increase for the month.
“At the Inglewood One-Stop Career Center, we’ve been able to get a lot of individuals jobs because of the activity with the stadium and Hollywood Park project. Particularly, these jobs are in construction,” said Vogel. “About 70 percent of people to get directly hired were underserved African-American males.”
In addition to One-Stop, Hodson believes African-American business owners should be given credit for creating new opportunities that have helped decrease the unemployment rate over the years. According to a recent report commissioned by American Express, the number of women-owned businesses grew 58 percent from 2007 to 2018, businesses owned by African-American women grew164 percent.
The California EDD does not have any data regarding the number of Black unemployed people who have transitioned from unemployment to self-employment. However, according to a 12-month Current Population Survey (CPS) from May 2019, 1.57 million Californians are self-employed, 8.9 percent are White followed by Asian (6.7 percent) and Black (6.3 percent).
“Trump is such a narcissist. He really thinks he’s changing the world,” said Courtney Teagle, founder of LaBree Boutique, a new boutique hair supplier in Los Angeles. “I don’t think unemployment has decreased among Black people for any reason except that we have to fend for ourselves. I started my business this year and it was born out of necessity to survive. I needed income and I couldn’t get it anywhere else. Therefore, I created a job for myself.”