In black neighborhoods, Trump's economic boasts ring hollow
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — It's one of President Donald Trump's favorite talking points in promoting his administration's success: the record low rate of black unemployment. But on a recent sunny afternoon in Vernon Park in Philadelphia's Germantown neighborhood, that victory seemed hollow.
As children laughed on the playground, several black men – some out of work, others homeless – sat or slept on benches nearby. Similar scenes play out across America and are backed by data that counter the positive picture Trump often paints in campaign-style rallies before largely white audiences.
When asked what he makes of Trump's claim that black Americans are faring better under his administration, construction company owner and Germantown resident Carlton Washington replied, "Where at? Calabasas?"
The retort was a reference to controversial rapper Kanye West, who had lunch with Trump at the White House on Thursday afternoon. Over roasted chicken, fingerling potatoes and sauteed asparagus, the two discussed crime in Chicago, more possible presidential pardons, job creation and the black unemployment rate.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for black Americans in September was 6 percent. That's down from a high of 21.2 percent in January 1983, but is still nearly double the overall national unemployment rate of 3.7 percent. The unemployment rate belies the on-the-ground reality for many African-Americans, according to experts.
"The rates are improving. There's a question of whether his policies created that improvement," said Andre Perry of the Brookings Institution, whose research focuses on black communities. "My question is: What kind of jobs are people working in?"
While black employment may have improved, that hasn't translated into broader economic gains.
That's partly because African-Americans are still disproportionately toiling in lower-quality jobs. Black people make up roughly one-fifth of those working in temporary jobs, a figure that hasn't changed much in the past five years, even as the economy has improved. Just 12 percent of all Americans are black.
And last year, Trump's first in office, the income gap between whites and blacks widened slightly. The typical African-American household earned $40,258, down 0.2 percent from a year earlier, while white households saw an income gain of 2.6 percent, to $68,145.
The racial wealth gap has also worsened even as unemployment rates have come down. The median net worth of a white household was 10 times that of a black household in 2016, the latest data available. That's up from seven times in 2004.