Fox Business opened the early round of the fourth Republican presidential debate by highlighting a long-debunked myth about the supposedly staggering levels of unemployment in the United States.
During Fox Business' November 10 Republican presidential debate, moderator Trish Regan misleadingly claimed that "[m]ore than 90 million Americans are unemployed or they are not in the workforce altogether" as part of a question directed at presidential hopeful Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ).
Media Matters has repeatedly debunked the claim that almost 90 million Americans are either “unemployed” or not engaged in the labor force, pointing out that the majority of those 90 million individuals are teenage children and retirees. In 2013, PolitiFact rated the exaggerated unemployment figure as "mostly false" and FactCheck.org chided former Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) for citing the "grossly misleading statistics" after it gained traction in the media:
For instance, the 92.6 million figure includes 36 million Americans of retirement age -- 65 and older -- 17 million of whom were 75 and older. It also includes 11 million teenagers -- age 16 to 19 -- many of whom aren't looking for jobs. It includes 6.8 million 20- to 24-year-olds, some of whom are in college. Those not in the labor force would also include millions of stay-at-home parents, early retirees and anyone else who didn't need or want to work.
Despite its lack of credibility, the claim that 90 million Americans aren't working has become a favorite talking point of right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh. In August, current Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump claimed that 93 million Americans were “out of work,” only to be mockingly corrected by The Wall Street Journal's “Real Time Economics” blog and given a "false" rating by PolitiFact. Even James Pethokoukis of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute criticized the bloated unemployment claim, which he called “non-factual.”
See the full exchange between Regan and Christie below:
TRISH REGAN (MODERATOR): Governor, economically, our country is struggling with some of the most anemic growth we've seen on record. More than 90 million Americans are unemployed or they are not in the workforce altogether. The number of people now willing, able, and wanting to go to work is at a level that has fallen to a level that we have not seen since the 1970s. For those that are working, wages aren't budging while other things -- costs -- like housing, remain high.