NEWTON, Iowa (AP) — Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump often argues the number of people looking for work in the U.S. far surpasses government figures, something he says helps fuel the discontent that drives thousands of people to his rallies.
The official U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 5 percent last month, the lowest level in seven years.
But Trump told a town hall audience in Newton, Iowa, on Thursday evening the number is actually much higher than that. He argues the statistics tallied by the government are “devised by politicians to make themselves look good.”
Here’s a look at Trump’s claim, and what federal labor statistics say about how many people are out of work.
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TRUMP: “You have 100 million people that would like to be working. And they’re not.”
TRUMP: “If you’re looking for a job and you quit after three or four months, you just can’t find a job, you go into that group of 100 million people that are sort of in there with you to a large extent, and you’re considered, you know, statistically you’re considered employed.”
THE FACTS: Trump’s total of 100 million is only true if you include every 16-year-old who is still in high school and every 80-year-old grandmother who long ago retired.
Labor Department figures show that 94.5 million people in the U.S., not 100 million, are “not in the labor force.” That means they are not working and are not looking for work.
But the vast majority of those people don’t want jobs: They are in school, or retired, or are stay-at-home parents.
This figure has grown sharply since the recession, but mostly because of increasing retirements as the baby boom generation ages. Young people are also more likely than in the past to finish high school and attend college rather than work.
It’s true that many of those who have lost jobs in recent years have become discouraged about finding work and stopped searching. That has artificially lowered the unemployment rate, because people are no longer counted as unemployed if they aren’t actively seeking employment.
This is why many critics of President Barack Obama, Trump among them, dismiss the current unemployment rate of 5 percent, which is low by historical standards.
Yet the government also tracks those who have looked for work in the past year, but are no longer seeking a job. That figure stands at 2 million. Adding that to the 7.9 million people who are officially unemployed results in a broader measure of unemployment of nearly 10 million people.
That’s far from Trump’s 100 million.
Rugaber reported from Washington.
Follow Christopher S. Rugaber and Catherine Lucey on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/chrisrugaber and http://twitter.com/catherine_lucey