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White House economists apologize after Huckabee Sanders' false statement about black employment under Trump

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds a daily briefing, at the White House in Washington, Aug. 14, 2018. President Donald Trump on Tuesday added his former aide, Omarosa Manigault Newman, to the growing list of African-Americans he has publicly denigrated on Twitter, calling her “that dog” and a “crazed, crying lowlife.” (Doug Mills/The New York Times/Copyright 2018)

President Donald Trump's economics team apologized on Tuesday after press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrongly stated that Trump has created three times as many jobs for black workers as President Barack Obama.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Sanders said Obama created 195,000 jobs for African-Americans during his eight years in office.

"When President Obama left after eight years in office - eight years in office - he had only created 195,000 jobs for African-Americans," Sanders told reporters. "President Trump in his first year and a half has already tripled what President Obama did in eight years."

Sanders statement was false. According to official statistics, black employment in the United States increased by nearly 3 million jobs from January 2009 through January 2017. From January 2017 through July of this year, black employment has increased by about 700,000 jobs.

Later Tuesday, the White House Council on Economic Advisers appeared to take responsibility for the mistake and published new data comparing black job creation following Obama's elections in 2008 and 2012 with black job creation following Trump's election in 2016.

"Apologies for @WhiteHouseCEA's earlier miscommunication to [Sanders]," the CEA said on Twitter.

Sanders later followed with a statement of her own.

"Correction from today's briefing: Jobs numbers for Pres Trump and Pres Obama were correct, but the time frame for Pres Obama wasn't," she said on Twitter. "I'm sorry for the mistake, but no apologies for the 700,000 jobs for African Americans created under President Trump."

New data produced by CEA compared black employment losses and gains in the 20 months following Obama's election (-636,000 jobs) and the 20 months following his reelection (831,000 jobs) to the 20 months following Trump's election (848,000).

The selection of dates is somewhat unusual since it takes into account job gains or losses before Trump and Obama took office. Economists generally regard a president's ability to shape employment trends as limited.

"If you start the clock on Election Day, Trump's first 20 months slightly outperformed the beginning of Obama's second term in African-American employment growth," said Ernie Tedeschi, who served as an economist in Obama's Treasury Department. "If you start the clock on Inauguration Day, Obama was slightly ahead. But the real bottom line is that the pace of jobs growth hasn't changed dramatically between the two presidents."

CEA did not immediately respond to a request to explain why it chose these dates, which elide that Obama was elected amid the Great Recession and one of the worst periods for jobs loss in recent U.S. history.

Sanders' original answer came in response to questions about Trump's use of a racial slur.

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This article was written by Jeff Stein, a reporter for The Washington Post.