- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 5, 2019

Black and Hispanic workers are seeing record-low unemployment and rising wages under President Trump, yet community leaders say it likely is not enough to sway their support to the president in next year’s election.

The unemployment rate for Hispanics dropped to 4.2% in April, the lowest level since the government began tracking the data in 1973.

Unemployment for black Americans was at a near historic low of 6.7%, up slightly from the record low set last year.

Average hourly pay rose 3.2% in the past 12 months. The fastest increase in pay was pocketed by low-wage workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The new jobs report is further proof that the Trump economy continues to boom and deliver benefits that all Americans are feeling,” said Trump campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany. “With this kind of momentum, we look forward to hearing the economic plans of the Democrats as they spin tales about Americans not feeling the results of the Trump economy, when in fact workers everywhere can feel the boom.”

Mr. Trump has worked to make inroads with minority voters since his 2016 run, when he encouraged black voters to abandon the Democratic Party. “What do you have to lose?” he asked.

In black and Hispanic communities, Mr. Trump either doesn’t get credit for the good economy or the gains are considered inadequate.

Democratic leaders say most of the economic gains go to the wealthy and credit any across-the-board advances to President Obama’s policies.

Others attribute increases for low-wage workers to states that have raised the minimum wage, which Mr. Trump opposes on the federal level.

“Unfortunately, the evidence shows that most of the economic gains continue to benefit those already well off,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said in response to the April jobs report, which showed the addition of 263,000 jobs pushing the unemployment rate to a five-decade low of 3.6%.

“We must do more to ensure that the economy is benefiting every family in every community, and that all Americans have the opportunity to move ahead in our economy,” she said.

That message could find a receptive audience among black voters.

The unemployment rate for black workers remains more than double that of white workers.

Since the Great Recession, wages for black workers has not risen as fast as for white workers in every income bracket, according to an analysis by the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute.

“If the white unemployment rate was just as high, we would be at crisis levels and have emergency benefits kicking in,” said Harin Contractor, an economist at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

Hispanic workers are more likely to credit their employer than Mr. Trump when they get a pay raise, said Sindy M. Benavides, chief executive officer of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

“When you think of the economy, particular businesses are not necessarily owned by President Trump. So I know that not all of the growth can be specifically attributed to the president or this administration,” she said.

Still, she noted the boost to wages in the health care and construction industries, where Hispanics make up a significant share of the workforce, 12% and 30%, respectively.

Average hourly pay in the construction industry hit $27.52, up nearly 0.4% from March and up 3.23% from April 2018.

Health care workers received similar but slightly lower gains.

The perception that Mr. Trump is a racist and a bigot also overshadows any payday smiles for black and Hispanic workers.

“It is certainly also something to keep in mind for the president as he goes into 2020,” said Ms. Benavides.

Andra Gillespie, a scholar of race in politics at Emory University, said that as long as Mr. Trump is associated with racism, he won’t make inroads with black voters regardless of what happens with jobs and wages.

“They are not going to necessarily give the president a pass just because the economy is doing well when people feel that their very lives are in danger more as a result of his rhetoric,” she said.

Surveys confirm that the economy isn’t winning over black and Hispanic voters for Mr. Trump.

A Morning Consult/Politico poll last week found that 83% of black voters disapprove of Mr. Trump’s performance as president, with 74% strongly disapproving.

Among Hispanic voters, the disapproval rate was 67%, with 56% strongly disapproving.

That compares with white voters splitting in a 47-49 approval-disapproval rating, with 39% strongly disapproving.

Overall, Mr. Trump scored an approval rating of 42%, with 54% disapproving.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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