Potential 2020 Candidate Kirsten Gillibrand Repeatedly Gets Unemployment Stats Wrong

Kirsten Gillibrand / Getty Images
November 15, 2018

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) cited a string of inaccurate economic statistics Wednesday in an attempt to cast doubt on the health of the economy during a speech at the National Action Network Conference.

Gillibrand, often floated as a potential 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, told the gathered audience several statistics about the unemployment rates for African-American men and women, but a Washington Post fact check found all three statistics she cited were incorrect.

"When they declare victory at 4 percent unemployment, it is not good enough," Gillibrand said. "Because 4 percent unemployment means an 8 or 9 percent unemployment in some cities for black women. It means a 16 percent unemployment rate for black men. It means young veterans coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan, a 20 percent unemployment rate. So our work really isn’t done."

As of October, the unemployment rate was at 3.7 percent, the lowest it has been since December of 1969. This is lower than the rounded-up figure of 4 percent cited by Gillibrand, but the main issue arises from her citation of statistics on black unemployment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found, in October, that the unemployment rate for black men was 6.2 percent, not 16 percent like Gillibrand claimed.

That same study of unemployment rates found that the unemployment rate for black women was 4.9 percent, not 8 or 9 percent.

When asked about these statistics, Gillibrand's spokesperson, Alex Phillips, said that Gillibrand accidentally dropped "young" from her speech and meant to refer to the unemployment rates of young black men and women.

On the issue of veterans, Gillibrand's statistic also missed the mark. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that "young veterans" between the ages of 18 and 24 had an unemployment rate of 12.6 percent, lower than Gillibrand's claim of 20 percent. Veterans between the age of 25 and 34 reported an unemployment rate of 1.9 percent.

Phillips claimed Gillibrand "misspoke the stat off the cuff."

When fact-checking her use of these statistics, the Washington Post concluded, "Somehow, Gillibrand managed to mangle three statistics in three consecutive sentences before a large audience. If you are trying to make the case that you can provide better economic stewardship, you need to get the numbers right first."

When asked by Stephen Colbert last week about the rumors she would run for president in 2020, Gillibrand said, "I believe it is a moral question for me ... And as I've traveled across my state, across this country for all these candidates, I've seen the hatred and division that President Trump has put out into our country and it has called me to fight as hard as I possibly can to restore the moral compass of this country ... so I will promise you I will give it a long, hard thought of consideration."