Monday, November 24th, 2014
Half-True
Romney
"Twenty-five or 24 million people" are "out of work or stopped looking for work."

Mitt Romney on Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 in an Atlanta campaign stop

Romney revises claim about the unemployed

Super Tuesday is only one month away, which means the GOP presidential hopefuls are descending on Georgia to convince voters they deserve Barack Obama’s job.

And speaking of jobs, they’re hammering Obama on unemployment.

When Republican front-runner Mitt Romney stumped at an Atlanta custom countertop showroom Wednesday afternoon, he said that "25 or 24 million" people are "out of work or stopped looking for work."

A PolitiFact Georgia team member stood among the crowd of 300, Truth-O-Meter in hand. It lit up and told us that Romney was doing a new take on an old talking point.

Last month, during the Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Romney said that "we have 25 million Americans out of work" during the Republican presidential debate. Our colleagues at PolitiFact National ruled his statement Half True.

Does Romney’s revised statement earn him higher marks on the Truth-O-Meter?

First, let’s look at his statement from January.

Officially, there were about 13.1 million unemployed Americans in December 2011, which put the unemployment rate at 8.5 percent. This is according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal government’s source of employment statistics. Romney’s count was some 12 million higher.

Here’s why:  

When PolitiFact National analyzed Romney’s statement, they pointed out that certain critics have long argued that the BLS definition of unemployment is too limiting. It doesn’t count people who have stopped looking for work or are working part time, even though they’d prefer a full-time job.

To address this concern, BLS offers an alternative measure (known to economists as "U-6") that includes these other groups.

By this metric, an additional 2.6 million people in the U.S. were "marginally attached" to the labor force in December 2011, meaning they’d be ready to work if a job became available. Another 8.1 million were working part time but would prefer a full-time job.

Together, these three categories added up to 23.8 million people in December 2011, for a total "U-6" rate of 15.2 percent -- well above the official unemployment rate. Romney’s data was a little high, but in the ballpark.

Romney earned a Half True. His use of the term "out of work" was a stretch when about one-third of the "25 million Americans out of work" are actually working part time, PolitiFact National ruled in January.

Now on to Romney’s statement in Atlanta.

Romney described those "25 or 24 million" people as being "out of work" or having "stopped looking for work."

The newest jobs data shows Romney’s calculation for the total number of unemployed, looking for work or are working part time, even though they’d prefer a full-time job, remains more or less accurate.

In January, some 12.8 million people were unemployed and 2.8 million people were marginally attached to the labor force, according to BLS figures. An additional 8.2 million were working part time even though they wanted a full-time position. Once again, that totals 23.8 million.

But Romney’s latest description of these workers was a little off the mark.

The BLS describes "marginally attached workers" as people not in the labor force who want to work and are available to do it, and who have looked for a job in the past 12 months, but had not done so in the past four weeks.

These people want work, but have recently given up because they have family obligations, think they can’t get a job, or other reasons.

The BLS calls people who are working part time even though they’d prefer a full-time job as working "part time for economic reasons." This is defined as those who worked one to 34 hours a week because they can’t find full-time work or business has slowed down.

The BLS does not ask whether they stopped looking for work.

Of the 24 or 25 million workers mentioned by Romney, only 15.6 million clearly match his description as being "out of work" or having "stopped looking for work."

The remaining one-third may or may not be angling for more hours or a full-time slot at their current employer. They could have stopped looking for full-time work altogether. We don’t know.

Romney’s statement is partially accurate, but he gets important details wrong. He therefore earns a Half True.