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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 5, 2021

Unemployment was the lowest ever a year ago? No, it was the highest ever

If Your Time is short

  • A year before the post, in April 2020, the unemployment rate was 14.7%, the highest on record, not the lowest.

  • In late-March 2020, President Donald Trump signed a $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill into law.

  • The unemployment rate bottomed out to 3.6% in April 2019, the lowest since the 1960s.

Less than two months after signing into law his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was aimed at providing relief from the coronavirus pandemic, President Joe Biden unveiled two spending proposals totaling more than $4 trillion.

Backlash came in the form of a widely circulated Facebook post that didn’t name Biden, but described his approach narrowly. It made this lament:

"WHY DO WE NEED A $4 TRILLION JOBS PLAN, WHEN A YEAR AGO WE HAD THE LOWEST UNEMPLOYMENT IN HISTORY WITHOUT USING TAXPAYERS MONEY?"

The April 24 post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The post is wrong in three ways:

Biden’s $4 trillion in plans encompass much more than just jobs.

A year before the post — in April 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic hitting hard — unemployment was at a record high, not a record low.

Around that time, President Donald Trump authorized spending of trillions in taxpayer dollars, too. Just before the end of March 2020, he signed a $2.2 trillion bill COVID-19 relief bill.

Biden’s spending proposals

News headlines have referred to Biden’s two plans as a $4 trillion plan, or $4 trillion in plans. Neither of his two blueprints has yet been presented as a bill to Congress.

The $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan, presented as an infrastructure program, would go beyond roads and bridges to water systems and broadband, as well as to programs such as care for the elderly and disabled. 

Biden’s $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which he outlined in his first speech to Congress, includes child care subsidies and tuition-free community college and pre-K.

Unemployment and Trump spending

Unemployment in March 2021, the latest month for which figures have been released, was 6%. That’s far below what it was early in the pandemic, in early 2020.

A year before the Facebook post, in April 2020, the unemployment rate was 14.7%. 

That is the highest on record (since 1948), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which cited the pandemic. Forty-three states had historically high unemployment rates that month.

(Estimates during the Great Depression are not directly comparable and are not official statistics, according to the agency.)

Like Biden, Trump authorized spending tax dollars to rescue the economy.

On March 27, 2020, just before unemployment hit its record high, Trump signed a $2.2 trillion emergency coronavirus package into law. 

He also signed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill, on Dec. 27, 2020.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, unemployment had been low under Trump. In April 2019, it was 3.6%, the lowest rate since December 1969. 

The lowest unemployment rate on record is 2.5%. That was reached twice, in May and June of 1953.

Our ruling

A Facebook post said: "Why do we need a $4 trillion jobs plan, when a year ago we had the lowest unemployment in history without using taxpayers money?"

Biden has proposed two spending plans totaling $4 trillion, but they go well beyond jobs. A year before the post, in April 2020, the unemployment rate was the highest on record, not the lowest. In late-March 2020, Trump signed a $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill into law.

We rate the post False.

Our Sources

Facebook post, April 24, 2021

Reuters, "Factbox: Joe Biden's $6 trillion ambition," April 30, 2021

Email, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics spokesman Gary Steinberg, May 4, 2021

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Unemployment rate rises to record high 14.7 percent in April 2020," May 13, 2020

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Unemployment rate 3.6 percent in April 2019, lowest since December 1969," May 8, 2019

PolitiFact, "Timeline: How Donald Trump responded to the coronavirus pandemic," published March 20, 2020; updated Jan. 19, 2021

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