Pushing his "New Jersey Comeback" theme, Gov. Chris Christie returned last week to the subject of private-sector job growth as evidence of the state’s improving economic condition.
With the addition of nearly 40,000 private-sector jobs in 2011, New Jersey saw the best private-sector job growth since 2000 and ranked among the top third of states for such growth last year, according to Christie.
"Since I took office, we as a state have added nearly 60,000 private-sector jobs," Christie said during his Feb. 21 speech introducing the fiscal year 2013 budget. "And 2011 was the best year of job growth since the year 2000 and places New Jersey in the top third among all of the states."
State officials have made it clear that "the best year of job growth since the year 2000" refers to private-sector jobs. In a recent ruling, PolitiFact New Jersey confirmed that New Jersey’s private-sector job growth in 2011 was the largest in 11 years.
But we were wondering whether Christie’s right that such growth "places New Jersey in the top third among all of the states." The short answer: not exactly.
When you compare states based on the net increase in private-sector jobs last year, Christie’s statement is accurate. But if you compare states according to the percentage increase in jobs, New Jersey isn’t performing as well as the governor makes it sound.
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak argued that the net increase in jobs supports the governor’s statement, adding "you are going out of your way to add something to the mix for the purpose of finding fault with it."
First, let’s explain New Jersey’s private-sector job growth in 2011.
Between December 2010 and December 2011, New Jersey gained 39,400 private-sector jobs for a 1.2 percent increase, according to seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The December 2011 figures are preliminary.
In Christie’s fiscal year 2013 budget summary, the governor’s staff reiterates the significance of that private-sector job growth: "The increase in private jobs was the largest in both absolute and percentage terms since 2000."
So, the administration cited two measures -- "absolute and percentage terms" -- to demonstrate that New Jersey’s private-sector job growth in 2011 was the best since 2000.
In that case, let’s see how those measures determine where New Jersey ranks nationally for private-sector job growth last year.
In terms of net jobs gained, New Jersey’s private-sector job growth stands at 12th place among the 50 states. That backs up Christie’s statement, because he said New Jersey ranks "in the top third among all of the states."
But in percentage terms, Christie’s claim is off. Based on the percentage increase in jobs, New Jersey ranks 31.
It’s worth noting that analyzing the net increase in jobs -- the measure that supports Christie’s statement -- typically favors big states. Ranking by percentage changes accounts for states’ different population sizes.
For a different fact-check on New Jersey’s job growth, Edward Montgomery, an economist and dean of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, had this to say a few weeks ago:
"If the question is which state created the most jobs you would use change in net employment. If the question is in which state is employment growing fastest you would use percentage change. Ranking states by net job creation will almost always favor big states."
During his budget speech, Christie pointed to New Jersey’s private-sector job growth in 2011, claiming that it "places New Jersey in the top third among all of the states."
In 2011, New Jersey gained 39,400 private-sector jobs for a 1.2 percent increase. In terms of net jobs gained, Christie is right. By that measure, New Jersey ranks in 12th place out of the 50 states.
But the 1.2 percent increase in private-sector jobs does not support the governor’s claim. By that measure, the state ranks 31.
We rate the statement Half True.
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