Caldara distorted annual unemployment rate under Carter

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During a broadcast of his 850 KOA show, host Jon Caldara falsely asserted that the unemployment rate under Democratic President Jimmy Carter was "13 percent." In fact, the annual unemployment rate never rose above 7.1 percent during Carter's presidency -- lower than the rates under his Republican predecessor and successor.

On the November 28 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Jon Caldara Show, host and director of the conservative Independence Institute, Jon Caldara, falsely claimed that under former President Jimmy Carter (D), the unemployment rate reached "13 percent." In fact, the annual unemployment rate while Carter was president never rose above 7.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Furthermore, annual unemployment rates were higher during the presidencies of Carter's predecessor, Gerald Ford (R), and his successor, Ronald Reagan (R).

Discussing U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel's (D-NY) recent comment that most military recruits "come from communities of very, very high unemployment," Caldara claimed that, currently, "[t]here is no high unemployment." He then added: "We forget what it was like under the Carter years. We forget double-digit unemployment rates -- 13 percent."

Despite Caldara's assertion, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that annual unemployment rates never rose above 7.1 percent during Carter's presidency. Moreover, by comparison, unemployment rates were higher under Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. The annual unemployment rate in 1977 and 1980 -- the first and the last years of Carter's presidency -- was 7.1 percent. In contrast, in 1975 and 1976 -- the last two years of Ford's presidency -- the annual unemployment rate was 8.5 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively. Additionally, during each of the first five years of Reagan's presidency, the annual unemployment rate was higher than during Carter's term, with highs of 9.7 percent in 1982 and 9.6 percent in 1983.

U.S. annual unemployment rates under presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan:

Year

President

Unemp. Rate**

1973

Nixon*

4.9

1974

Ford

5.6

1975

Ford

8.5

1976

Ford

7.7

1977

Carter

7.1

1978

Carter

6.1

1979

Carter

5.8

1980

Carter

7.1

1981

Reagan

7.6

1982

Reagan

9.7

1983

Reagan

9.6

1984

Reagan

7.5

1985

Reagan

7.2

1986

Reagan

7.0

1987

Reagan

6.2

1988

Reagan

5.5

Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the most recent unemployment rate, for the month of October 2006, was 4.4 percent.

From the November 28 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Jon Caldara Show:

CALDARA: When you look at Rangel's quote, he says they're coming from places with high unemployment, as if to imply that they have no other choices. Of course they have choices. For every two recruits that come from poor neighborhoods -- the poorest -- three of them come from the richest neighborhoods. We have a pretty good spread of people who want to go into the military. Now, do you agree with Charlie Rangel -- is that, is that what I'm going to hear? Let me give you the quote again, that "[i]f a young fellow has an option of having a decent career or joining the Army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life he would not be in Iraq." Is that something you agree with?

CALLER: No, I wouldn't say that he wouldn't bet his life, because I know that there are many soldiers out there who are educated people who do bet their lives every day --

CALDARA: And when he says of recruits that most of all of them "come from communities of very, very high unemployment," do you believe that as well?

CALLER: Well, if you look, the majority of the people are coming from the South right now and that's 40 -- I think it was 41 percent, that the Heritage Foundation report said come from the South. And I think that that is a big part of that statistic right there.

CALDARA: These are communities with very, very high unemployment? Let me tell you, in America right now, there are very few communities that have, quote, very, very high unemployment. There is no high unemployment.

CALLER: Exactly.

CALDARA: We forget what it was like under the Carter years. We forget double-digit unemployment rates -- 13 percent. There is no high unemployment rate. It -- what Rangel is trying to tell us is that the people who are going into the military are somehow victims and they don't have other choices. I, I hope you're not silly enough to buy into that.

**Annual average unemployment rate, civilian labor force 16 years and over (percent).

A tip from Colorado Media Matters reader M.M. contributed to this item. Thanks, and keep them coming.

Correction: 

Colorado Media Matters originally stated incorrectly that Gerald R. Ford was president in 1973. In fact, Ford did not assume the presidency until August 9, 1974, upon Richard M. Nixon's resignation. Colorado Media Matters regrets the error.

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