The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 4.1 percent for a third straight month — the lowest level since 2000, according to the Labor Department — but black Americans didn't fare as well as others.
The unemployment rate for African Americans was 6.8 percent in December.
The black unemployment rate has historically been higher than the national average -- and sometimes more than double the unemployment rate for white Americans.
Still, the December number was a record low, something President Trump noted Saturday.
And if this decrease continues, it's likely one that Republicans will use as the party attempts to win over black voters — one of the groups that approves the least of President Trump. Gallup's latest data has just 6 percent of black Americans approving of the president's job performance.
Trump campaigned as a job creator and promised to improve the economy for all Americans — blacks included.
“You're living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose?” he asked before a crowd in Dimondale, Mich., during the campaign, a city that is more than 92 percent white.
Black voters were overwhelmingly unconvinced, and Trump lost the African American vote to Hillary Clinton. But since Trump entered the Oval Office, his surrogates have claimed he has fulfilled his promise to black Americans.
Stephen Moore, an economic adviser to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, wrote in the Hill:
Preliminary data show black wages and incomes up since the election. It’s early for sure, but so far Trump has done more for black economic progress in six months than Obama did in eight years. . . . So is Trump a racist who doesn’t care about the future of black Americans? He is creating jobs, higher incomes and trying to give a better education to every disadvantaged child in America. That is a pretty darn good civil rights record.
However, there's a good chance that this low number that Moore and company praise isn't likely to continue at this rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the black unemployment rate fluctuates from month to month.
Economist Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote in the Post:
"We shouldn’t get too excited about that relatively low monthly rate — given the high statistical variance in these data, it could jump back up next month."
Voters interviewed by The Fix after the jobs report's release wanted Trump to address the issues that have caused the black unemployment rate to remain higher than the total jobless population. While Trump was quick to take credit for the drop in black unemployment, his White House has yet to explain what actions he specifically took that led to the change. This led some to conclude that Trump is exaggerating the role his administration played in the drop. Employment trends show that the black unemployment rate often decreases in December when seasonal hiring increases in the retail industry, which employs a disproportionately higher number of people of color.
And others including Bernstein, a former chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden, suggested that the drop was not likely due to actions from the Trump White House, but a continuation of the economic policies implemented by the Obama Administration:
"Rigorous research by Federal Reserve economists shows that black unemployment, along with the black/white gap is highly cyclical, meaning that what we’re seeing here is what we’d expect in year nine of an economic expansion with a labor market closing in on full employment."
Besides, for many Americans, particularly black Americans, there is more to having a “pretty darn good civil rights record” than lowering the black unemployment rate — especially when Trump can't take sole credit for the rate's decrease.
Calling athletes protesting racism “sons of b----es,” holding activists partially responsible for the killing of an anti-racism protester during a white-supremacy rally, and endorsing a Senate candidate who pointed to the era of slavery as the last time America was “great” are all likely to be demerits on Trump's civil rights record with black voters.
The Washington Post previously reported that a study by the Economic Policy Institute found that even when African Americans attend college and actively work to expand their skills and networks, they still earn far less than whites with a similar educational background. In fact, the wage gap has expanded the most between college-educated blacks and whites.
Economist William Rodgers, who wrote the study, concluded that “wage gaps are growing primarily because of discrimination.”
The Post's Heather Long wrote about some of the challenges black Americans face in securing employment:
African Americans face a number of barriers to employment, including biases from recruiters. An oft-cited study in 2004 took the same résumés and put more “white sounding names” and “black sounding names” on others. The study found that employers were 50 percent more likely to call in the person with the white-sounding name for an interview, even though the two résumés had exactly the same qualifications.
The experiment has been repeated several times since with similar results, leading some minority candidates to attempt “résumé whitening” when they apply for jobs.
Many Americans applauded the most recent jobs report on social media — especially Trump supporters. But most black Americans argue that making America great for all citizens means erasing the unemployment gap -- something the Trump White House has yet to clearly demonstrate it has plans to tackle.