On Monday morning, President Trump tweeted that the unemployment rate for black Americans had reached the lowest on record, and that the rate for Hispanic Americans will soon reach a similar milestone. He effectively claimed credit for these improvements, writing, “Dems did nothing for you but get your vote!”
The truth is, Trump has so far done little to contribute to the declines in unemployment among blacks and Hispanics—those declines are more a reflection of the sound economic policy of the past decade. And even though the black and Hispanic unemployment rates have improved over the past year, they are still much higher than the rate for white Americans—and that’s a crucial piece of context missing from Trump’s tweet.
For almost as long as unemployment statistics have been recorded (since around the time of the Great Depression), a gulf has existed between white Americans and black and Hispanic Americans. A good yet unfortunate rule of thumb is that the unemployment rate for blacks is generally about twice as high as the one for whites.
The latest jobs report indeed shows that these gaps had closed just a bit. In December 2017, the unemployment rate of the American populace as a whole was 4.1 percent. The racial breakdown, as usual, shows some sharp discrepancies: Only 3.7 percent of white Americans were unemployed at the close of the year. The unemployment rate for Hispanics was more than a percentage point higher, at 4.9 percent. And for black Americans, unemployment was just under twice the rate for white Americans, at 6.8 percent.