Half-True
Bush
"Florida led the nation in job creation" while Bush was governor.

Jeb Bush on Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 in a campaign video

Bush says Florida created more jobs than any other state while he was governor

Jeb Bush released this campaign ad touting his record as Florida governor on Sept. 8, 2015.

GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush implied in a new campaign ad that the jobs boom Florida enjoyed while he was governor can be a reality for the entire country if he’s elected to the Oval Office.

"As governor, I cut taxes, cut spending, balanced budgets, and Florida led the nation in job creation," he said in a Sept. 8, 2015, commercial.

We wanted to see if Bush’s claim about job creation really put Florida in front of all 50 states.

Tallahassee tally

The time frame Bush is using here is key, because he is relying on a distinct slice of jobs data. His campaign said they are measuring total job growth for the period between January 2000 and January 2007, or Bush’s last seven years as governor.

Let’s look at the way Bush’s people have sampled it: Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data for seasonally adjusted, nonfarm jobs, Florida indeed led the nation in total job creation from 2000-07, with 1.1 million new jobs. Second in that time span was California, with 1 million.

Bush took office on Jan. 5, 1999, however, so why leave off 1999? Because then the top two spots switch places. California created 1.48 million new jobs, while Florida made 1.33 million.

Just looking at 2000 to 2007 leaves out context, though. First, the economy began to falter a month before Bush left office, and the state started losing positions a couple of months after that. By the end of 2007 Florida had shed 106,000 jobs, many of which were from the construction and real estate industries that had expanded during the housing bubble. The state eventually lost about 1 million, or almost the entire total of job expansion from Bush’s time as governor.

And as economists have told PolitiFact Florida time and time and time (and time) again, governors have limited impact on jobs numbers in the first place. Officials often enjoy or suffer from economies beyond their direct control, and Bush was no different, said David Cooper, an analyst for the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. And in this case, the end result isn’t something Bush should be too happy about.

"Florida’s job losses in the recession were far worse than the national average and far worse than all of its neighbors," Cooper said. "I’m not sure how much credit we should give to the governor for the state’s job growth during that time, and even if we could credit him, I’m not sure he should want it."

Also, the jobs during Bush’s time weren’t the greatest in the first place. Even the source Bush cites, a South Florida Sun-Sentinel wrap-up of Bush’s two terms the Post reprinted, said as much: "But while Florida led the nation in job creation, much of that was in low-paid service industry jobs that left many Floridians without health insurance and scrambling for affordable housing amid a real estate boom that helped fuel business-friendly tax breaks."

Former Sun-Sentinel reporter Linda Kleindienst, who now is editor of Tallahassee business magazine 850, told us she had used state numbers from the Office of Economic and Demographic Research. Her point was that while there were more jobs, many of them offered poor pay and often no benefits.

And finally, using total job numbers to paint a picture of success isn’t the best method to measure success. Florida is one of the largest states, so of course it would create a lot of jobs.

"Comparing totals completely lacks context — it doesn’t really tell you anything unless you’re comparing totals among states of roughly equally sized economies and labor markets," Cooper said.

A better way would be to measure Florida’s rate of job growth, as a percentage of total jobs. When we measure that, whether we start in January 1999 or 2000, Florida comes in fifth:

State

Jan. 1999 - Jan. 2007

Jan. 2000 - Jan. 2007

Nevada

34.6 percent

24.8 percent

Arizona

25.9 percent

20.7 percent

Wyoming

23.7 percent

20 percent

Idaho

22.6 percent

17.9 percent

Florida

19.8 percent

15.8 percent

 

Our ruling

Bush said "Florida led the nation in job creation" while he was governor.

This is true if you parse the numbers the way his campaign did, looking only at total job growth over the last seven years of his eight-year tenure. But there are plenty of caveats to the talking point, including the prevalence of low-paying jobs that Bush policies didn’t necessarily create.  Many of those jobs evaporated after the housing bubble burst. A more level way to measure jobs would have been to look at the growth rate, which put Florida fifth in the country while Bush was in office.

There are many angles to explore in jobs data, and Bush’s view only tells part of the story. We rate his statement Half True.