Newark Mayor Cory Booker said his city is doing "unprecedented things to move forward" despite wrenching economic circumstances.
Asked in a radio interview last week about the State of the City address he’ll deliver today, Booker said Newark’s population is rising, development projects are going up downtown and businesses are moving to town. Amid that growth, the mayor also highlighted a trend moving in the opposite direction: the city’s jobless rate is shrinking, he claimed.
"We've seen in this last year tremendous things happening, including our unemployment rate come down 2 percentage points," Booker said on WBGO’s "Newark Today" on Feb. 23.
A spokeswoman for the mayor provided data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from January 2011 to December 2011 to support Booker’s claim. During that time frame the unemployment rate in Newark fell from 15.9 percent to 13.9 percent.
But that comparison has flaws. The data on unemployment rates in New Jersey’s cities are not adjusted for seasonal fluctuations such as holiday and summer hiring.
Garrett Schmitt, an economist with U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, said for that reason, the agency recommends comparing annual averages or year-over-year data, meaning one month from one year to the same month the next year, when using nonseasonally adjusted data..
The average annual rate for 2011 is not yet available. From December 2010 to December 2011, the most recent month of federal data available, Newark’s unemployment rate fell from 14.6 percent to 13.9 percent, or 0.7 percentage points.
"The Mayor’s statement was 100% true and factually accurate. The unemployment rate in Newark in 2011 fell by 2 percentage points," Adam Zipkin, the city’s deputy mayor for economic and housing development, said in a statement. "This is significant because it is the first time in seven years that Newark has seen the unemployment rate fall within a calendar year by two full percentage points. While experts, economists and others may want to color, shape or contextualize that fact with other statistics over different time periods, it is still a fact. Just as when monthly job and unemployment numbers are reported broadly on national networks, many people will have comments on those facts but the numbers themselves are indisputable."
It’s worth noting that using the time frame Booker’s office cited, a similar claim about the jobless rate could have been made in 2010. That year, the unemployment rate fell from 16.1 percent in January to 14.6 percent in December.
But the next month, in January 2011, the rate jumped to 15.9 percent. That’s not an isolated incident. Since 2006, the unemployment rate has increased in January from the previous December.
Booker claimed that in the past year, Newark’s unemployment rate fell two percentage points.
A spokeswoman for the Newark mayor cited nonseasonally adjusted federal data from January 2011 to December 2011 to support his claim. Within that time frame, the unemployment rate fell two percentage points. But an economist with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said his agency recommends comparing year-over-year data or annual averages when using statistics that are not adjusted for seasonal fluctuations.
From December 2010 to December of last year, the city’s unemployment rate dropped 0.7 percentage points, not two percentage points.
We rate this claim False.
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