The growing U.S. economy and improving business environment is bringing black workers back into the labor force, BET founder Robert Johnson told CNBC on Friday.
Johnson, the nation’s first black billionaire, spoke before Friday’s jobs report, which showed nonfarm payrolls rose 103,000 in March, falling well short of the 193,000 gain economist were expecting.
In January, the Labor Department reported the unemployment rate among black workers was at its lowest since at least the early 1970s, when the government began tracking the data. The unemployment rate for black Americans spiked in January and then fell in February. The rate was unchanged in March at 6.9 percent.
“When you look at that [January report], you have to say something is going right,” said Johnson, a Democrat and founder and chairman of The RLJ Cos.
“You have to take encouragement from what’s happening in the labor force and the job market,” Johnson told “Squawk Box.” “When you look at African-American unemployment, … you’ve never had African-American unemployment this low and the spread between African-Americans and whites narrowing.”
Johnson said that means the jobs market is “soliciting employees who have been out of the labor force, some of it based on discrimination, some of it based on changes in education, access and technology changes.”
Additionally, the business environment in the U.S. is also good, Johnson said. “I believe if you take into account the Trump tax cut, you take into account the drop in unemployment, … and you take into account that interest rates are fairly stable” the economy is going to grow, he said.
“I believe the economy is on a strong growth path,” he added.
President Donald Trump has touted the black unemployment rate both on Twitter and his State of the Union address in January. Critics say Trump can’t take full credit because black unemployment had been on the decline before Trump took office.
Johnson has said he has known Trump for years. Johnson met with the then president-elect in 2016 and said he believes the president wants to work with African-Americans and all Americans to boost the economy.
Johnson also spoke again about a job offer he received from Trump. He said he didn’t take the unspecified position because he didn’t want a government job and not because of the president’s policies.