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VERIFY: Fact-checking President Trump’s third State of the Union address

Our VERIFY researchers will be fact-checking President Trump’s State of the Union and the Democratic response in real-time once the speech begins. Author:...
Our VERIFY researchers will be fact-checking President Trump's State of the Union and the Democratic response in real-time once the speech begins.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will go before the American people and a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night to deliver his third State of the Union address.

The speech comes less than 24 hours before the Senate is expected to vote to acquit the president in his impeachment trial.

Following Trump's address, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar will deliver the Democratic response.

Our VERIFY researchers will be fact-checking the claims and statements from both in real-time once the speech begins.

CLAIM: “In 8 years under the last administration, over 300,000 working-age people DROPPED OUT of the workforce. In just three years of my administration, 3.5 MILLION working-age people have JOINED the workforce.”

This claim is true, but needs context.

The number of people currently in the workforce is reflected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics “Labor Force Participation rate.” The labor force participation rate is the portion of the entire civilian population age 16 and older that is either employed or currently looking for work in the last four weeks. During President Obama’s two terms in office, the rate dropped from a high of 65.7 to 62.7 by the end of his terms. Since President Trump took office, the rate has grown from 63.8 percent to 63.2 percent. That comes out to roughly 3.7 million more people joining the workforce since President Trump took office. It’s worth noting that it’s not known whether the decrease under President Obama was actually due to people “dropping out” of the workforce as Trump claimed. At the time, the Obama administration attributed the decrease to retiring post- World War II Baby Boomers.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics “Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate”

- Jason Puckett 

RELATED: President Trump to deliver State of the Union on eve of impeachment verdict

CLAIM: “Unemployment is at the lowest level in more than 50 years.”

This claim is true.

Currently, the last recorded unemployment rate-- December 2019-- was at 3.5%. The last time the unemployment rate was 3.5% or lower was in December 1969, 50 years ago.

Source: United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

- Eliana Block

CLAIM: "The median household income is now at the highest rate ever."

This claim is true.

SOTU Verify_Income (1)

Source: United States Census Bureau, Table H-8, Median Household Income by State 

- Sarah Gahagan

CLAIM: “As a result of our unprecedented efforts, illegal crossings are down 75 percent since May -- dropping eight straight months in a row.”

So far, this claim is true but one month of data is not yet public.

The VERIFY Team took a look at data provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The agency broke down the total number of border apprehensions on the southwest border on a monthly basis. The data demonstrates that the apprehensions peaked in May, 2019, when it skyrocketed to 144,116 apprehensions. According to the data, these arrests have dropped every single month since, and reached 40,620 in December, 2019. The data for January, 2020, has not yet been released to the public by CBP. If the number of apprehensions drop in January, this would in fact be eight straight months.
The drop from May, 2019 to December, 2019 is a reduction of roughly 72 percent.

Source: Customs and Border Protection

- Evan Koslof

RELATED: Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is designated survivor

CLAIM: “Under my administration, seven million Americans have come off food stamps and 10 million people have been lifted off of welfare.”

This claim is true but needs context.

“Food stamps” refers to the U.S Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. Data from SNAP shows that there are roughly six or seven million less people on the SNAP program than there were before President Trump took office. The number varies depending on if the count starts in January, 2017 when Trump took office, or look a few months earlier when they were at their recent peak. As for the total of 10 million lifted off welfare, that number is harder to pin down directly. President Trump didn’t specify which welfare programs he was referring to. SNAP food stamps saw a roughly seven million decrease and
Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance saw a roughly 4.7 million person decrease. Depending on the month, those two programs combined could come out near Trump’s statement. It’s worth noting that some of the decrease on these programs came from changes to the SNAP program and the qualifications. Not all seven million people can be definitively said to have stopped needing food stamps.

Source: SNAP Monthly data

- Jason Puckett

CLAIM: President Trump claimed that America has gained 12,000 new factories under his administration after losing 60,000 factories under the previous two administrations.

This claim is true.

SOTU Verify_Jobs


Source: Bureau of Labor

- TJ Spry

RELATED: Rush Limbaugh awarded Medal of Freedom at Trump's State of the Union

CLAIM: "Thanks to our bold regulatory reduction campaign, the United States has become the number one producer of oil and natural gas in the world, by far."

This claim is misleading.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. has been the number one producer of oil and natural gas in the world since 2013 when the U.S. surpassed both Russia and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. took the number one spot before the Trump administration took office.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

- Marcelino Benito

CLAIM: "Since my election, the net worth of the bottom half of wage earners has increased by 47 percent, three times faster than the increase for the top one percent." 

It is verified that the net worth has increased three times faster than the top 1 percent. Trump’s actually low on the increase to the bottom 50 percent and the difference between the two numbers.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the net worth of the bottom half of the population was 1,070,183 millions of dollars at the start of 2017. As of the third quarter of 2019, it was 1,668,034. That’s an increase of 55.86 percent, higher than the 47 percent Trump cited. For the top one percent, their net worth was 29,955,829 millions of dollars. In the third quarter of 2019, it was 34,533,370. That’s an increase of 15.28 percent, making the increase for the bottom half of Americans more than 3.5 times the increase for the top half.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis data here and here.

- TJ Spry

CLAIM: "I have raised contributions from the other NATO members by more than $400 billion, and the number of allies meeting their minimum obligations has more than doubled." 

This claim is based on estimates and needs context.

According to NATO’s spending forecast, NATO Europe and Canada are expected to raise defense spending by a cumulative $400 billion US dollars by 2024 to meet the 2% of GDP obligations – though those obligations were agreed to in 2014. As far as the number of allies meeting their minimum obligations
doubling, here are the facts: In 2017, just four countries met that threshold of minimum obligations (2% of the country’s GDP). NATO is still working to finalize numbers, but estimates nine countries will do so in 2019. In 2018, only seven countries met that threshold.

Source: NATO

- Max Marcilla, Sarah Gahagan and Jordan Fischer

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