Even before Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday announced -- once again -- that he would not run for president, his conservative credentials and record in New Jersey had come under attack by members of each party.
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said Christie was too liberal, and Democratic Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley blamed Christie for high unemployment in the Garden State.
When the governor announced his decision to stay put in New Jersey, a reporter asked how much the criticism played into his decision.
"None. None. Because New Jersey's unemployment is significantly lower than it was when I got here," Christie said in a nationally televised news conference on Tuesday. "And we've created 50,000 new private-sector jobs in the last 20 months after having lost 117,000 in the year before I got here."
The governor is sticking around New Jersey -- "whether you like it or not," as he said -- so PolitiFact New Jersey decided to see if the man in charge of Trenton has his facts straight.
We found that his numbers are accurate, but as in previous cases, he may be taking too much credit.
First, let’s review the unemployment changes.
When Christie took office in January 2010, New Jersey’s unemployment rate stood at 9.8 percent and there were 441,223 unemployed individuals, according to federal labor statistics. As of August 2011, the most recent data available, the state’s unemployment rate was 9.4 percent with 421,676 unemployed people.
That means the unemployment rate dropped by 0.4 percent and the number of unemployed individuals fell by 19,547. However, Christie said unemployment was "significantly lower."
New Jersey’s unemployment rate is moving in the right direction, but to be considered statistically significant, an over-the-year change in the state’s unemployment rate would have to be 0.9 percent, according to Sandra Mason, chief of the division of Local Area Unemployment Statistics at the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
New Jersey’s unemployment rate is lower, but not statistically significant.
Now, let’s talk about that private-sector job growth.
From February 2010 to August 2011, the state added 45,300 private-sector jobs. So the governor’s numbers are largely accurate -- but Christie can’t take all the credit for private-sector job growth.
In a previous ruling on a Christie statement about private-sector job creation, we spoke to several experts who said growth in that sector is the result of a variety of factors and can’t be attributed specifically to any governor. We rated the statement Half True.
Kim Rueben, director of the state and local program of the nonpartisan Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, said in an Aug. 17 email that "it isn’t clear a specific governor can take a lot of credit for the new jobs. I think governors and state governments can change the climate but in general there has been little research showing specific programs (or economic development credits) have actually led to job creation."
Christie also said the job growth in his administration came after New Jersey lost 117,000 private-sector jobs the year before he took office.
If you look at labor statistics from December 2008 to December 2009, Christie is dead on: the state lost 117,700 private-sector jobs. From January 2009 to January 2010, 105,000 private-sector jobs were eliminated.
Rutgers University professor Joseph Seneca told us the three measures cited above -- the reduction in the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons, and the increase in private-sector jobs -- all tell the same story.
"The data from both surveys point to improving labor market conditions," Seneca said. "It’s a good start."
Christie said, "New Jersey's unemployment is significantly lower than it was when I got here. And we've created 50,000 new private-sector jobs in the last 20 months after having lost 117,000 in the year before I got here."
His statistics on private-sector job growth are accurate, and the unemployment rate is lower. But the unemployment decline is not statistically significant. And as we’ve said in the past, Christie can’t take all the credit for job growth in the Garden State.
We rate his statement Half True.
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