Building on these comments during the presidential debates, Trump added that African-Americans "are living in hell," and reiterated that "they have no education" and "they have no jobs."
Experts told CNBC Trump's analysis contains a grain of truth, but totally lacks in necessary nuance and historical context.
"It is absolutely false to say that things are the worst that they have ever been," said Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute's program on race, ethnicity and the economy.
"We know that there are definitely communities in this country with excessively high rates of unemployment and poverty for African-Americans," she added. "But that by no means can be applied to the African-American experience in general."
But that's not to say the economic picture for African-Americans isn't lagging and deserving of focused attention.
In comparison to other demographics, Wilson notes, African-American communities face a racial disparity "that doesn't seem to change."
In recent decades, racial achievement gaps have remained stubbornly wide. Black unemployment has persistently been twice the national average and income inequality has actually widened, Wilson said, citing her own studies.
"We find that these wage gaps have actually gotten larger over the last 40 years," she said. "A big driving factor for that trend is racial discrimination, and that is something that we are less willing to address in a frank and straightforward manner."
However, Wilson also said that black Americans' economic reality mirrors the rest of the country in that it ranges from people with advanced degrees to those who did not graduate high school. She argued that a framework more nuanced than Trump's would acknowledge this kind of economic diversity without ignoring racial inequality.
In fact, Wilson said economic performance for black people is "without a doubt" improving, noting that the last few years have offered African-Americans a strengthening labor market.
Government data supports Wilson's statement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the black unemployment rate has been cut in half since 2011 from its post-recession high of 16 percent to a just over 8 percent today.
Wilson recommends that if lawmakers care about addressing the economic issues black people face, they should continue to push to get the American economy to full employment and vigorously enforce antidiscrimination laws. While working to ameliorate racial inequality, she said, it's important to remember that African-Americans are not monolithic.