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Pence falsely claims black unemployment is still at record low

Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Mike Pence invoked the 200th birthday of abolitionist icon Frederick Douglass on Wednesday to make a false claim about the rate of black unemployment, using outdated numbers.

"African-American unemployment -- as we sit here on Frederick Douglass' 200th bicentennial of his birth -- African-American unemployment is at the lowest level ever recorded in American history," Pence said Wednesday at an event hosted by Axios.

Pence's claim is out of date. While black unemployment did fall to a record low in December, it spiked to 7.7 percent in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A White House official said black unemployment has been trending downward and the administration is monitoring the spike to determine whether it was an anomaly or more significant.

President Donald Trump has sought credit for a decline in black unemployment that began long before he was elected. Unemployment among black workers peaked at 16.8 percent in 2010 and dropped to 7.8 percent in January 2017, the last month of President Barack Obama's term.

It dropped further to 6.8 percent in December, the lowest level recorded, before rising again in January. The overall unemployment rate is 4.1 percent.

The one-month spike, first announced Feb. 2, has not stopped Trump or Pence from continuing to tout the black unemployment rate.

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At a reception to honor Black History Month on Tuesday, Trump mentioned black unemployment again, also using out-of-date statistics.

"It was just announced, and perhaps you heard me say it, we had the lowest African-American unemployment rate in the history of our country," Trump said. "Lowest in the history of our country. So we are very, very proud of that."

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