Rep. Clyburn: Black Unemployment Low? 'We Were Fully Employed During Slavery'

By Michael W. Chapman | February 19, 2020 | 10:11am EST
House Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.)  (Getty Images)
House Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) (Getty Images)

Although the national unemployment rate for Black Americans is the lowest it has been on record in nearly 50 years, during the Trump administration, House Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said this is "not true" because Blacks "were fully employed during slavery." So, "it all depends on how you measure" it, he exclaimed.

On FNC's Your World With Neil Cavuto, Feb. 18, host Neil Cavuto spoke with Clyburn about the current economy and, despite Clyburn's hostility towards President Trump, whether the president's policies are helping Black Americans. 

"Let's leave the words aside," said Cavuto.  "Whether you like his [Trump's] style or not, or tweets or not, or comments or not,  he's delivered the goods for a lot of African-Americans has he not? With record-low unemployment levels for one group or another. Among Africa-Americans, you don't think that's something constructive?"

Clyburn, who calls Trump a "king" and voted to impeach him in December, said,  "Come on, Neil.  No, no, it's not true.   I'm saying that the African-American unemployment is not the lowest it's ever been unless you count slavery."

"We were fully employed during slavery," said Clyburn. "So it all depends on how you measure this up."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national unemployment rate for Black workers, 16 years and older, was 5.4% in August 2019 -- the lowest rate in recorded history.

The BLS data for Blacks starts in 1972, nearly 50 years ago.  As the chart below shows, from July through December 2019 the Black unemployment rate was in the 5's range -- 5.9, 5.4, 5.5, 5.5, 5.6 and 5.9.

In January 2020, the rate was 6.0%, which is still an incredibly low unemployment rate for Blacks over the last 48 years. Slavery in the United States officially ended in December 1865, nearly 155 years ago. Prior to the Civil War, many states were free states, including Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Massachusetts. 

The national Black unemployment rate, by month, since 1972. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
The national Black unemployment rate, by month, since 1972. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

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