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The Black Unemployment Rate

February 9, 2018

The fact-checkers checked, and found that this was a "fact" cited by Donald Trump that wasn't an exaggeration or outright false.

The fact-checkers checked, and found that this was a "fact" cited by Donald Trump that wasn't an exaggeration or outright false. The fact-checkers confirmed that, just as Trump said in his State of the Union Address, black unemployment hit an historic low. This fact misses the point.

Donald Trump was elected President on the promise to Make America Great Again. For his supporters, this meant restoring the belief of the people of this country that things will be better for them and their children in the future.

Although Trump didn't win the minority vote, his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, told him the path to victory in Michigan and Pennsylvania and other key states was to appeal to undecided voters whose demographics said "Democrat" but whose values said "Republican." Trump's surprise victory, according to her, was due to a crucial number of minorities,
single females and millennials who, in the privacy of the voting booth, marked their ballot for Trump.

Trump's strategy of Making America Great Again involved a combination of stimulating strong economic growth and reserving the jobs created by that growth for our people. By cutting regulation and now with tax reform, Trump has pushed the economy from second gear into high gear. But, I'm saying all this misses the point.

Merely setting an historic low for black unemployment is not at all good enough. We need to obliterate the so-called historic record. The only decent goal for black unemployment to something like the national average. The Asian-American unemployment rate is about 1 point less that the white unemployment rate, and the Hispanic unemployment rate is about 1 point more. For the members of these three groups, success in the market place is mostly a function of things such as getting a good education or a marketable skill, avoiding abuse of drugs and alcohol, joining into a stable family, and overcoming bad luck and bad decisions along the way.

But the black unemployment rate is about 3 points higher than the national average. This makes the road to success steeper, and problems that develop along the way tend to compound. The thing is, the big gap between black and white unemployment developed only about 60 years ago. So, yes, President Trump and fact-checkers, with the statistics we currently have, black unemployment nit an historic low; but, based on other statistics, black unemployment wasn't any different from white unemployment prior to the 1960s.

Something happened during the 1960s that devastated the black community and the black family and that opened up a huge gap in the black unemployment rate relative to the white unemployment rate. Hopefully, whatever that cause was will become merely a matter of historic controversy. Hopefully, Trump's plan to juice the economy and reserve the jobs that are created for our people will obliterate the black-white unemployment gap.

Author
Clifford F. Thies is the Eldon R. Lindsay Professor of Economics and Finance at Shenandoah University. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Boston College.
cthies@su.edu

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