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Under Joe Biden, the unemployment rate has been below 4% for 16 straight months, or at 4% or below for 18 months.
Biden’s 50-year time frame excludes two longer stretches when unemployment was below 4%.
Under President Donald Trump, the unemployment rate was 4% or under for 24 months, compared with 18 months under Biden.
In what the White House billed as a major address on economic policy, President Joe Biden touted his record on jobs. He boasted that the unemployment rate during much of his tenure has been below 4%, which is considered a strong achievement by historical standards.
"Unemployment dipped below 4% by the end of my first year in office. Now it’s been below 4% for the longest stretch in 50 years in American history," Biden said June 28 in Chicago.
Biden’s statement is a prime example of how careful wording can make a statement accurate.
Biden’s saying "below 4%" made his statement correct. But by setting a 50-year timeline, Biden cordons off two earlier periods in which unemployment was below 4% for much longer.
We looked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ official measurement for the unemployment rate and found four periods that met or neared the threshold Biden established in his remark.
For the period under Biden, the unemployment rate fell to 3.9% in December 2021, then popped back up briefly to 4% in January 2022, and then fell to 3.8% in February 2022. It has remained below 4% ever since, through the last published month, May 2023.
So, counting the months the way Biden phrased it, the rate has been below 4% for 16 straight months, or at 4% or below for 18 months.
The most recent period that can compete with that record occurred under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump.
The longest stretch in which the unemployment rate was "under 4%" during Trump’s tenure was 13 months, from February 2019 to February 2020, right before the coronavirus pandemic arrived in the U.S. and sent unemployment skyrocketing. That would be shorter than the streak under Biden.
Biden’s statement would’ve been wrong had he said unemployment has been "4% or below" for the longest stretch in 50 years. That distinction goes to Trump, who oversaw an unemployment rate of 4% or under for 24 months.
Biden also benefits by cutting off the comparison at 50 years, or 1973. Using this time frame excludes two periods in which unemployment was low for even longer stretches.
Unemployment was below 4% for 35 straight months, from January 1951 to November 1953. It was also below 4% for 27 months from November 1967 to January 1970.
For 50 months from December 1965 to January 1970, unemployment was 4% or below.
When we presented our analysis to the White House press office, it said it had nothing to add.
Biden said that on his watch, the unemployment rate has "been below 4% for the longest stretch in 50 years in American history."
This checks out. But by cutting off the comparison at 50 years, Biden excludes two longer stretches when unemployment was below 4%, in the 1950s and 1970s.
Biden’s precise phrasing makes his statement accurate, but it needs clarification. We rate it Mostly True.
Joe Biden, remarks in Chicago, June 28, 2023
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, unemployment rate, accessed June 29, 2023
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