Tuesday, September 16th, 2014
Mostly True
Greenwald
"In 2011, NJ economy ranked 47th--at the bottom with Alabama, Mississippi & Wyoming. Under Christie, NJ is falling behind."

Lou Greenwald on Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 in a tweet

Chris Christie targeted by Democrats over New Jersey ranking 47th for economic performance in 2011

Gov. Chris Christie has been touting New Jersey’s economic success in appearances across the country, but back at home, Democrats recently jumped on a statistic to prove the Republican governor wrong.

Between tweets, news releases and a YouTube video, Democrats have countered Christie’s "Jersey Comeback" theme with the claim that, under his watch, the Garden State ranked 47th in the nation for economic performance in 2011.

"In 2011, NJ economy ranked 47th--at the bottom with Alabama, Mississippi & Wyoming. Under Christie, NJ is falling behind," Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) wrote June 6 in one of a few related tweets.

On June 11, the New Jersey Democratic State Committee released a YouTube video that includes that statistic as a way of showing similarities between Christie and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

For this fact-check, PolitiFact New Jersey is examining two issues -- whether that 47th ranking is correct and how much Christie can be held responsible for it.

Here’s what we found: the statistic is on target, but blaming Christie ignores other factors behind the lackluster economic activity.

Tom Hester Jr., a spokesman for the Assembly Democrats, argued that the "burden of proof here is on Governor Christie" for touting and taking credit for the "Jersey Comeback."

"The governor is laying claim to economic growth that doesn't exist," Hester said in an e-mail. "When legitimate figures show New Jersey ranking 47th in real GDP growth, then the governor needs to be held accountable for his own claims."

First, let’s discuss that 47th place finish.

On June 5, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released data on real gross domestic product in 2011 and preceding years for each state and Washington, D.C. Real GDP is an inflation-adjusted measure of a state’s economy.

Between 2010 and 2011, real GDP in New Jersey declined by 0.5 percent, leaving that change in 47th place among the 50 states, according to the bureau. Only six other states saw a drop in real GDP, including Alabama, Mississippi and Wyoming, the bureau said.

Still, it’s worth noting that, according to the bureau, real GDP in New Jersey increased by 1.5 percent between 2009 and 2010. That means during 2010 and 2011 -- the first two years of Christie’s tenure -- there was a net increase of 1 percent.

Now, we’ll address whether it’s fair to blame Christie for the state’s economic performance in 2011.

After reaching out to a few experts, it appears that the Democrats’ criticism is overblown. A governor can impact economic growth in a state, but there are several other factors at play, some experts said.

James Alm, chair of the Department of Economics at Tulane University in New Orleans, La., told us "states (and state governors), while not powerless by any means to affect state growth, are also largely at the mercy of broader national trends, and even state trends that are outside their own control/influence."

Phillip Swagel, professor in International Economic Policy at the University of Maryland, School of Public Policy, noted how New Jersey is considerably affected by the economic fortunes of Philadelphia and New York City.

"Governor Christie likely has limited control over this, let alone over national economic trends," Swagel said in an e-mail. "This is not to say that the Governor’s policies would have no impact on the state economic situation, but just that there are many factors."

Bruce Yandle, an adjunct economics professor at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia, added in an e-mail: "It takes a miracle worker as governor to enter office and somehow magically cause the workforce and employment to expand immediately, and cause productivity to rise."

Our ruling

In a series of tweets, Greenwald blamed Christie for New Jersey ranking 47th in the nation for economic performance in 2011.

With a 0.5 percent decline in real GDP in New Jersey, that ranking is accurate. As for Christie’s role, experts told us a governor can impact a state’s economic growth, but there are various other factors, including national and regional conditions.

We rate the statement Mostly True.

To comment on this ruling, go to NJ.com.