BET founder Robert L. Johnson, America’s first black billionaire, said during a CNBC appearance on Friday that black Americans should be encouraged by the growing economy under President Trump.
“Something is going right,” said Johnson, owner and chairman of Bethesda-based asset management firm RLJ Companies.
He cited the December jobs report showing that unemployment among black workers was at its lowest since the Labor Department began tracking the data in 1972.
Black unemployment did fall to 6.8 percent in December, before rising and dipping again to 6.9 percent in March, according to the latest jobs numbers released Friday. But black unemployment remains nearly double the white unemployment rate of 3.6 percent, even though the gap has narrowed somewhat.
Johnson, during his appearance on “Squawk Box” on Friday morning before the March jobs report was released, was optimistic about how black Americans will continue to fare economically.
“You have to take encouragement from what’s happening in the labor force and the job market,” Johnson said. “When you look at African American unemployment, in over 50 years since the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been keeping the numbers, you’ve never had two things: African American unemployment this low and the spread between unemployment among whites and African Americans narrowing.
“That absolutely means the jobs market is soliciting employees who have been out of the labor force, some of it just based on discrimination, some of it based on changes in education, access and technology changes,” he continued. “And so when you look at that, you have to say something is going right.”
Johnson praised the current U.S. business environment, “if you take into account the Trump tax cut,” he said. “I believe the economy is on a strong growth path.”
The December tax cuts were the largest one-time reduction in the corporate tax rate in U.S. history. The GOP bill, sold on the promise that it would drive up wages and increase job growth, also lowered taxes for the vast majority of Americans, as well as small-business owners.
While Trump often claims credit for the lower black unemployment rate — touting it in his State of the Union address in January and even tweeting a CNBC story about Johnson’s comments Friday — the brightening economic outlook preceded his presidency. The black unemployment rate had steadily declined during Barack Obama’s two terms, from nearly 17 percent in 2010, after the recession, down to 7.8 percent by the time Trump entered office in January 2017.
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Source: Washington Post