A fresh batch of labor statistics is sending a recycled claim from Gov. Chris Christie to the bottom end of the Truth-O-Meter.
The Republican governor last week repeated a claim about how there are fewer "state government" employees now than when former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman resigned in January 2001.
Better yet, the state accomplished that reduction "without any layoffs," Christie said.
"New Jersey today has fewer employees in state government than it had when Christie Whitman left office in January of 2001, and I think that’s good," Christie said in a July 9 appearance at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. "And we did it without any layoffs. We did it through attrition."
PolitiFact New Jersey issued a True ruling in December on Christie’s claim about how state government has fewer employees than when Whitman resigned.
But when we looked at recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we found that the governor’s statement is no longer accurate. Christie’s claim about there being no layoffs is wrong too, because his representatives previously cited hundreds of layoffs during his tenure.
First, let’s explain what’s changed since our True ruling.
At the time of that ruling, the latest numbers were preliminary estimates for November 2011, showing 137,800 "state government" workers. That figure represented 600 fewer employees than the 138,400 state workers in January 2001.
But the November figures have since been revised to show 144,300 workers in that month, exceeding the estimate from January 2001. Every month since November also has shown a greater number of employees than when Whitman resigned.
When Christie repeated the claim last week, the latest figures were preliminary estimates for May 2012, when there were 146,100 state government employees. That represents a 7,700 increase, or nearly 5.6 percent, over Whitman’s final month.
Those statistics are seasonally adjusted and include workers in state departments; the legislative and judicial branches; state colleges and universities; state hospitals and state authorities and commissions, such as NJ Transit.
Brian Murray, a spokesman with the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, acknowledged how "the Bureau of Labor Statistics has since revised the data and shifted the estimated count of state employees higher."
But Murray also pointed to a reduction in employees since the Whitman era in the subcategory of "other state government," which includes the executive, legislative and judicial branches as well as state boards and authorities.
"It could be argued that the Governor has more day-to-day control over the workforces in the items included in ‘other state government’ rather than Educational Services and hospitals," Murray said in an e-mail.
However, in both claims, Christie has just referred to "state government" in general.
Also, when we referred to that overall category for our first fact-check, a Christie spokesman confirmed that was the source of the governor’s information. So, for this fact-check, we’re focusing on the same category.
It’s worth noting that since Christie took office in January 2010, the number of "state government" employees has dropped by 5,600, or nearly 3.7 percent.
But has the Christie administration reduced the state workforce "without any layoffs"?
That’s not what the governor’s representatives told us in December when we were working on our first fact-check.
Between the start of Christie’s tenure and November 2011, "743 out of 4,738 full-time positions eliminated were through layoffs," the spokesmen said in an e-mail, referring to the executive, legislative and judicial branches.
Those layoffs included 138 positions at the New Jersey Network, the state-owned TV network shut down at the end of June 2011.
At the Brookings Institution, Christie claimed: "New Jersey today has fewer employees in state government than it had when Christie Whitman left office in January of 2001, and I think that’s good. And we did it without any layoffs. We did it through attrition."
But the latest labor statistics show there were 7,700 more "state government" workers in May than when Whitman resigned. Also, the governor’s representatives have cited hundreds of layoffs during Christie’s tenure.
We rate the statement False.
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