Just in time for Halloween, Gov. Chris Christie cautioned New Hampshire voters last week to avoid the "horror movie" that New Jerseyans have lived through.
Here’s how the Republican governor summed up that film’s plot: Democrats increased taxes, fees, regulations and state spending, leading the Garden State to lose private-sector jobs between 2000 and 2009.
"See, look at what happened to us. From 2000 to 2009, we had a jobless decade: more private-sector jobs in New Jersey on Jan. 1, 2000 than were there on Dec. 31, 2009," Christie said Wednesday at a campaign event for Ovide Lamontagne, the Republican candidate for governor of the Granite State.
"A jobless decade under Democratic leadership, because what did they do?" the governor went on. "Raise taxes, increase regulation, raised fees, and during that period of time, spending went up an average of 16 percent a year."
The governor’s right about the drop in private-sector jobs, but he’s wrong to attribute that reduction only to tax and fee hikes, regulatory changes and state spending increases. Christie failed to note the impact of the recession, which coincided with the deepest losses of private-sector jobs.
Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts told us "the Governor’s comments are factual and the record of job loss AND economic malaise in the decade dominated by Democratic leaders, who raises taxes, fees and burdensome regulation, speaks for itself."
First, let’s break down the job figures.
According to seasonally adjusted figures from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the state had 3,366,100 private-sector jobs in December 1999 and 3,211,100 in December 2009.
That represents a net loss of 155,000 private-sector jobs over the decade. During the same time period, New Jersey gained 69,300 net jobs in the public-sector.
But the bulk of the private-sector job losses occurred in 2008 and 2009 -- the height of the recession. The recession technically lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
After five consecutive years of private-sector job gains, New Jersey lost 107,900 jobs in 2008 and 117,000 in 2009.
Harry Holzer, a professor at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute and the chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor under President Bill Clinton, called Christie’s comparison "extremely unfair."
"It's an extremely unfair comparison, since Jan. 1 2000 was the peak of the late-90s boom and Dec. 31 2009 was close to the trough of a terrible recession," Holzer said in an e-mail.
"There is no question that the recession contributed, and is likely the dominant effect," Holzer added. "When you go from the strongest labor market in the past 40 years to the weakest one in 80 years, there will be a lot of job loss, and that was true in every state in the country."
But Joseph Seneca, a professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, told us another factor was how New Jersey’s private-sector job gains preceding the recession lagged behind the nation’s growth rate.
"The reasons for that weak performance compared are complex, but they include the loss of competitiveness of the state in terms of attracting, retaining and growing private sector investment and employment," Seneca said in an e-mail.
"How much of this loss in competitiveness was due to taxes, regulations, other business costs, and a perceived unfriendly business climate cannot be easily determined, but by the mid years of the decade this deterioration in competitiveness had manifested itself in weak job growth."
At a campaign event in New Hampshire last week, Christie claimed New Jersey lost private-sector jobs between 2000 and 2009 because Democrats increased taxes, fees, regulations and state spending.
The governor’s right about the drop in private-sector jobs: New Jersey lost 155,000 jobs between December 1999 and December 2009. But the reasons behind those job losses are complex and Christie failed to acknowledge the impact of the recession, which coincided with the bulk of the job losses.
We rate the statement Half True.
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