FACT CHECK: 3 false claims Trump made about the economy at his State of the Union address

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Leah Millis/Pool via AP

  • President Donald Trump sought to shift focus to his strongest campaign pitch Tuesday night: the economy.
  • There are plenty of economic talking points for Trump to highlight, including the historically low unemployment rate and robust financial market gains.
  • But Trump often supplements those facts with claims that are false or misleading. Here are three from Tuesday.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump seized on the US economy in his third State of the Union address Tuesday night, shifting focus to his strongest campaign pitch as an impeachment trial unfolds less than a year ahead of his re-election bid.

The president has steadily polled better on jobs and GDP than on his overall performance in office. And approval of his handling of the economy has only continued to climb, reaching all-time highs in recent weeks.

There are plenty of economic talking points for Trump to highlight: The unemployment rate is at its lowest level in 50 years, financial markets are hovering near record highs, and the administration is celebrating back-to-back trade deals with China and North American neighbors.

But Trump often supplements those facts with claims that are false or misleading. Here are three from Tuesday.

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Claim 1: “I am thrilled to report to you tonight that our economy is the best it has ever been.”

Claim 1: “I am thrilled to report to you tonight that our economy is the best it has ever been.”

This claim is false. It's certainly true that the economy is humming in the 11th year of the expansion. But by a number of measures, it is not at an unprecedented level of strength.

In the past three years, annual gross domestic product growth has not yet hit the 3% target Trump pledged to deliver. But GDP has expanded at rates well above that mark, including over 4% in the 1990s and nearly 9% in the 1950s.

The unemployment rate has fallen to as low as 3.5% under Trump, compared with a record 2.5% in 1953.

Claim 2: "Since my election, we have created 7 million new jobs, 5 million more than government experts projected during the previous administration … The average unemployment rate under my administration is lower than any administration in the history of our country."

Claim 2: "Since my election, we have created 7 million new jobs, 5 million more than government experts projected during the previous administration … The average unemployment rate under my administration is lower than any administration in the history of our country."

This claim is false. The labor market has been expanding for a record 111 months. About 6.7 million jobs have been created since Trump took office in 2017, an amount that is solid but not unprecedented. In the 36 months before the 2016 election, the US economy added more than 8 million jobs.

It isn't clear how the White House came to its conclusion on the average unemployment rate, since past presidents have scored lower and a president in the third year of his term isn't comparable to those of four- to eight-year terms.

Claim 3: “We are restoring our nation's manufacturing might, even though predictions were that this could never be done.”

Claim 3: “We are restoring our nation's manufacturing might, even though predictions were that this could never be done.”

This claim is misleading. The Trump administration has long emphasized an "America First" approach that it said would bring back manufacturing jobs. While there was an uptick in factory activity in 2017, it was short-lived.

US manufacturing has been in a technical recession since mid-2019. The sector has declined largely because of a broader slowdown across the globe and tit-for-tat tariff fights that drove up prices and disrupted supply chains.

Trump was correct that 12,000 new factories have been built during his term, but Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows the vast majority of those consist of five or fewer people. In December, about 12,000 factory jobs were lost.

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