Fact check: Biden, not Trump, has the record lows for Black unemployment and poverty

Former President Donald Trump is making a concerted effort to win over Black voters – in part by making inaccurate claims.

During a Saturday roundtable discussion at a predominately Black church in Detroit, Trump said President Joe Biden “has done nothing for you except talk,” adding: “We achieved the lowest African American unemployment rate and the lowest African American poverty rate ever recorded – ever, ever recorded – during my four years.”

Facts First: Trump’s claims about having achieved the lowest Black unemployment rate and poverty rate ever recorded were true when he made them before Biden took office, but they are not true today. Both of the record lows set during Trump’s presidency were surpassed by new record lows during Biden’s presidency.

Trump could have correctly said Saturday that, during his presidency, Black unemployment and Black poverty hit their lowest levels ever recorded as of that point. Instead, he deceptively portrayed records that have been bested under Biden as supposed evidence that he has done more for the Black community than Biden has.

Let’s look at the data.

Black unemployment: Record low set in 2023 under Biden

The record low for the Black or African American unemployment rate, 4.8%, was set under Biden in April 2023. That beat the Trump-era low that was a record at the time, 5.3% in August 2019 and September 2019. (A cautionary note: This official data series goes back only to 1972.)

The most recent Black or African American unemployment rate, for May 2024, is 6.1%. Though that is a clear uptick from the 2023 record, it is low by historical standards. And it is the same as the rate under Trump in February 2020, just before the Covid-19 pandemic caused unemployment to skyrocket.

In the month Biden took over from Trump, January 2021, the Black or African American unemployment rate was 9.3%. The early pandemic jump is a good example of how unemployment rates, like all economic figures, are affected by factors other than who the president is.

Black poverty: Record low set in 2022 under Biden

The record low in the official poverty rate for Black individuals, 17.1%, was set under Biden in 2022, the most recent year for which the data is available. Under Trump, the lowest official poverty rate for Black individuals was a then-record 18.8% in 2019.

There are different ways to measure poverty. The Biden era also holds the record low, 11.3%, for Black individual poverty under the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which incorporates cash and noncash government benefits, tax credits, people’s necessary expenses and geographic differences in the cost of living. The lowest supplemental figure for Black individual poverty under Trump was 14.7% in 2020.

The supplemental figure for Black individual poverty spiked to 17.2% in 2022 after the expiry of pandemic relief initiatives that had lowered the figure in 2020 and 2021.

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