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Fact check: Video comparing Trump and Obama unemployment rates and job growth is misleading

Social media users have been sharing a video with statistics claiming that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump had lower unemployment rates and created more jobs than his predecessor Barack Obama’s administration. However, government figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that while most of the figures in the video were true for some months, they are not necessarily representative of unemployment levels during the two administrations and do not take into the effects of the 2007-2009 Great Recession and the coronavirus pandemic.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The post (here), which appears to have been created by the TikTok account @the_educated_youth (vm.tiktok.com/ZSpVRyet/), whose handle appears in the bottom right-hand corner of the video, lists the unemployment rates under Trump and Obama: “Overall: 3.9% (Trump) and 9.9% (Obama); Women: 3.8% (Trump) and 8.7% (Obama); Hispanic: 4.4% (Trump) and 12.8% (Obama); Black: 6.6% (Trump) and 16.1% (Obama).” It also says that Trump created 2.3 million jobs, while under Obama there were 5.1 million fewer jobs. Captions include, “numbers don’t lie #trump2020” and “People lie but numbers never do”.

The posts do not say whether the figures represent an average or a specific point in time.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that unemployment levels have varied during both presidencies (here). All unemployment figures below are taken from this BLS data, where the options under the graph title allow viewers to see the data from different demographics. Data for all demographics can be seen all at once by clicking “show table” under the graph.

When Obama was inaugurated in Jan. 2009 the United States was suffering from the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Great Recession lasted from Dec. 2007 to June 2009 ( here , here ). During the Trump presidency unemployment figures and job growth started strong but have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic since March 2020 (here).

Reuters recently debunked other misleading claims about the Trump administration outperforming the Obama administration in terms of unemployment, job growth and other factors, here .

OVERALL UNEMPLOYMENT

The post claims that overall unemployment was 3.9% under Trump and 9.9% under Obama.

Under Obama, as the country was recovering from the Great Recession, unemployment overall reached a high of 10% in Oct. 2009 and was at the rate stated in the social media posts, 9.9%, in Nov. 2009, Dec. 2009, March 2010 and April 2010.

The overall unemployment rate, however, decreased under Obama, with a steady decrease occurring in his second term. When Obama was inaugurated in Jan. 2009 the overall unemployment rate was 7.8% and when he left office in Jan. 2017 it was 4.7%, its lowest rate during his presidency.

Unemployment overall under Trump was 3.9% (the figure stated in the social media posts) in Dec. 2018. In fact, overall unemployment was 4.0% or below from March 2018 to Feb. 2020, with the lowest rate being 3.5% in Sept. 2019 and Feb. 2020—just before nationwide shutdowns to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus began.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, under Trump the overall unemployment rate reached the highest rate since at least the 1940s, as it hit 14.7% in April 2020 (here).

When Trump was inaugurated in Jan. 2017, unemployment was at 4.7%, meaning Trump took office with an unemployment rate that was 3.1% lower than the figure Obama took office with. According to the latest BLS data, unemployment in Oct. 2020 was at 6.9%.

FEMALE UNEMPLOYMENT

The social media post claims that unemployment among women was 3.8% under Trump and 8.7% under Obama.

The trend for women broadly follows the total trends in the BLS statistics.

The unemployment rate under Obama for women aged 20 years and over never reached 8.7%: the highest rate was 8.4% in Nov. 2010. The lowest rate was 4.2% in July 2016 and under Obama unemployment for this group decreased overall from 6.5% in Jan. 2009 to 4.4% in Jan. 2017, with most of the decrease occurring in his second term.

During the Trump administration, the unemployment rate for women aged 20 years and over was 3.8% in Feb 2018 and was lower than 3.8% from March 2018 to Feb. 2020. The lowest rate was 3.1% in April 2019, Sept. 2019 and Feb. 2020. The highest rate was 15.5% in April 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. When Trump was inaugurated in Jan. 2017, unemployment was at 4.4% for this group, compared to 6.5% when Obama started. According to the latest BLS data, unemployment for women over 20 in Oct. 2020 was at 6.5%.

HISPANIC UNEMPLOYMENT

The video says that the unemployment rate for Hispanic or Latino people was 4.4% under Trump and 12.8% under Obama.

The trend for Hispanic or Latino people broadly follows the total trends in the BLS statistics, floating above the national average.

The BLS data shows that during the Obama presidency the unemployment rate for Hispanic and Latino people only reached 12.8% in Oct. 2009 and Dec. 2009, and exceeded that figure in Aug. 2009, Jan. 2010, March 2010, Nov. 2010 and Dec. 2010. However, unemployment for this group decreased during Obama’s presidency from 10.1% in Jan. 2009 to 5.8% in Jan. 2017, with most of the decrease occurring in his second term. The lowest unemployment rate for Hispanic and Latino people under Obama was 5.4% in Feb. 2016.

Under Trump, the unemployment rate amongst Hispanic and Latino people was at 4.4%, as claimed in the social media post, in Oct. 2018, Dec. 2018 and Feb. 2020, and was lower than that figure in 10 months from Feb 2019 to Jan 2020 inclusive. However, the highest rate of unemployment for Hispanic and Latino people was 18.9% in April 2020, and for six months ending Sept. 2020 the rate was over 10%. When Trump was inaugurated in Jan. 2017 the unemployment rate for this group was 5.8% (compared to 10.1% when Obama took office) and latest figures show that the rate was 8.8% in Oct. 2020.

BLACK UNEMPLOYMENT

The post claims that overall unemployment for Black people was 6.6% under Trump and 16.1% under Obama.

The trend for Black or African American people broadly follows the total trends in the BLS statistics, floating above the national average.

Black and African American people in the United States experienced unemployment of 16.1% under Obama in Dec. 2009 and Feb. 2010, and the rate exceeded 16.1% in eight months in 2010 and 2011, with the highest rate at 16.8% in March 2010. Under Obama, the unemployment rate for this group decreased, mainly in his second term, from 12.7% in Jan. 2009 to 7.5% in Jan. 2017 when he left office. The lowest rate of unemployment for Black and African American people during the Obama administration was 7.5%.

Under Trump the unemployment rate among Black and African American people was 6.6%, as stated in the social media posts, in July 2018, Dec. 2018, March 2019 and April 2019. The rate was lower than 6.6% between April 2018 and Dec. 2018, and between May 2019 and Feb. 2020. The lowest level was 5.4% in August 2019. The highest rate was 16.8% (the same high as Obama) in May 2020. When Trump was inaugurated in Jan. 2017 unemployment was at 7.5% compared to the 12.7% when Obama took office. The latest figures show that unemployment among this group was at 10.8% in Oct. 2020.

JOB GROWTH

The video claims that the U.S. economy gained 2.3 million jobs under Trump and lost 5.1 million under Obama.

The BLS measures “non-farm jobs”, which account for about 80% of the workers who contribute to GDP but exclude groups such as farm employees, unpaid volunteers and private household employees, because collecting data for these groups can be complicated because of self-employment, unpaid family employment, hobby farmers etc. (here).

According to Reuters calculations using BLS data (here), the U.S. economy gained 11.4 million non-farm jobs between Jan. 2009 and Dec. 2016, the time period coinciding with Obama’s eight years in office. Before the increase in jobs began around Jan. 2010, from Jan. 2009 to Jan. 2010 there was a decrease in non-farm jobs of approximately 4.3 million.

According to preliminary BLS data for Oct. 2020, the U.S. economy has experienced a net loss of nearly 3.3 million jobs since January 2017, the month Trump’s presidency began (here). Between January 2017 and February 2020, however, just before the onset of nationwide shutdowns to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, a net 6.8 million non-farm jobs had been added under Trump.

VERDICT

Partly false. All except for one of these unemployment figures was true for at least one month during the Obama and Trump presidencies. However, these statistics do not show the whole picture: Obama started with much higher unemployment rates than Trump due to the Great Recession and rates decreased in his second term; and the low, decreasing unemployment figures under Trump dramatically increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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