Facebook Twitter Tumblr Close Skip to main content
A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Tim Scott’s False and Misleading Claims About Unemployment

Este artículo estará disponible en español en El Tiempo Latino.

Republican Sen. Tim Scott has claimed that African Americans, Hispanics and Asians all had their lowest unemployment rate under former President Donald Trump. But the lowest unemployment rate on record for African Americans was under President Joe Biden, and the lowest unemployment rate for Hispanics was the same under both presidents.

Women also had their lowest unemployment rate since the 1950s under Biden, despite what Scott suggested on May 5, when he was interviewed by host Kristen Welker on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Scott speaking at the Judge Joseph Story Dinner in Cambridge, Iowa, in August 2023. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

“We were just better off under President Trump,” began Scott, who is considered to be a potential vice presidential running mate for Trump. “Inflation, Kristen, was at 2%, and we had the lowest unemployment rates for African Americans, for Hispanics, for Asians, a 70-year low for women.”

The South Carolina senator has made similar claims about record low unemployment rates under Trump.

Later in the NBC interview, Scott said to Welker: “At the end of the day, the 47th president of the United States will be President Donald Trump, and I’m excited to get back to low inflation, low unemployment.”

Scott is right about the annualized rate of inflation, which was 2.3% in February 2020, just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The inflation growth rate was down to 1.4% in January 2021, when Biden took office amid the economic recovery.

Due to a number of factors, inflation spiked to 9.1% in June 2022 but has been trending down ever since. Inflation was 3.5% for the 12 months ending in March, the most recent figure available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But it’s misleading to claim that the U.S. has to “get back to … low unemployment.”

The unemployment rate is already relatively low under Biden, having been at or below 4% for 29 consecutive months, the longest stretch since the late 1960s. Trump’s longest streak was 24 months.

In addition, Trump inherited an unemployment rate of 4.7% in January 2017, which then-Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said was already near full employment. When Biden was inaugurated, the unemployment rate was 6.4%.

Also, as we said, Scott’s claims about historically low unemployment rates for certain demographics under Trump are outdated. Here are the facts:

African American Unemployment

Under Trump, the unemployment rate for African Americans went down to 5.3% in August 2019 – at that time, the lowest rate on record, according to BLS data going back to 1972. When Trump left office in January 2021, amid the pandemic, the rate was 9.3%.

But under Biden, the unemployment rate for African Americans reached a new low of 5.1% in March 2023, and then dipped even lower to 4.8% the following month. Most recently, the rate for Black Americans was 5.6% in April – not 6.4%, as Scott said in the interview, referring to the rate one month earlier in March.

In fact, the rate in April was lower than the pre-pandemic rate of 6.1% in February 2020.

Hispanic Unemployment

The unemployment rate for Hispanics also went down to a new low of 3.9% under Trump, according to BLS data going back to 1973. At the end of Trump’s four-year term in January 2021, the rate was up to 4.3%.

But after Biden took office, the Hispanic unemployment rate again declined to 3.9% in September 2022, tying the previous record during the Trump administration. As of April, the rate was 4.8% — half a percentage point higher than the rate of 4.3% in February 2020, just before the pandemic.

Asian Unemployment

Scott’s claim about Asian unemployment is still accurate.

During Trump’s presidency, the unemployment rate for Asians declined to 2% in June 2019, the lowest rate on record – although BLS data for the Asian population only go back to 2003. By the time of the presidential transition in January 2021, the rate was 6.6%.

So far, the lowest Asian unemployment rate under Biden was 2.3% in July 2023. Since then, the rate has gone up to 2.8%, as of April, which is still a bit higher than it was prior to the pandemic in February 2020 at 2.5%.

Women’s Unemployment

The lowest recorded unemployment rate for women was 2.7% in May 1953, according to BLS figures.

Under Trump, the rate got as low as 3.4% in September and October 2019 – the lowest it had been since 66 years earlier, when the rate also was 3.4% in September 1953. By January 2021, the rate was up to 6.1%.

But Biden’s lowest women’s unemployment rate was slightly better – 3.3%, in January 2023. In April, the rate had increased to 3.8%, which was a bit higher than the 3.5% rate in February 2020.

Bottom line: The BLS data show that unemployment – overall, and for certain groups of people – was low under Trump, until COVID-19 disrupted the economy in 2020. Comparing the pre-pandemic rates in February 2020 with the most recent data in April, unemployment is nearly as low, or lower in one case, under Biden – contrary to what Scott has suggested.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org does not accept advertising. We rely on grants and individual donations from people like you. Please consider a donation. Credit card donations may be made through our “Donate” page. If you prefer to give by check, send to: FactCheck.org, Annenberg Public Policy Center, 202 S. 36th St., Philadelphia, PA 19104.