"If you look at the jobs lost in the private sector as opposed to the job gains in the public sector, it's out of whack. The government's growing and the private economy's shrinking."
Steve LaTourette on Friday, March 4th, 2011 in a newspaper interview
Rep. Steve LaTourette says the government is growing while the economy is shrinking
Ohio Senate Bill 5 would restrict collective bargaining for state workers and severely limit it for local government employees.
Rep. Steven LaTourette says won't endorse the bill as written, although he doesn’t have a say in it since it’s a bill in the state legislature.
"Being a lawyer, I've never seen the legal system more efficient than sitting down and negotiating over wages and benefits," the former Lake County prosecutor said in an interview March 4 with The News-Herald.
Even so, he said, "I get the fact that we're going to look inward and there seems to be a disconnect between public employment and private employment. If you look at the jobs lost in the private sector as opposed to the job gains in the public sector, it's out of whack. The government's growing and the private economy's shrinking."
PolitiFact Ohio was interested because the congressman said something similar last summer, when he asserted that American Recovery and Reinvestment Act did little for private jobs while the federal workforce boomed.
The statement is a popular claim among Republicans criticizing the White House and Democratic congressional leadership. PolitiFact has checked out several variations, including more than one from House Speaker John Boehner, and always concluded that the statement contained some truth but glossed over important information.
We wondered if, and how, conditions had changed.
LaTourette's office told us his comments were based on employment figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and on a February report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service titled "Job Growth During the Recovery."
We took benchmark dates from the CRS report, which identifies December 2007 as the start of the recession and June 2009 as the start of recovery.
In December 2007, the BLS database of payroll statistics put total employment in the country at 137,983,000. The job losses that followed did not stop after the recovery started, and employment hit bottom in February 2010. In February 2011 -- the last month for which figures are available -- BLS says there were 130,515,000 jobs.
That's a loss of 7,468,000 from the recession's start.
Employment in the private sector, which BLS says was 115,606,000 jobs in December 2007, also bottomed out in February 2010. The number reached 108,298,000 in February 2011, a loss of 7,308,000 jobs.
Total government employment in December 2007 was 22,377,000, according to BLS. That figure rose during the recession to 22,557,000 jobs in June 2009, but dipped by February 2011 to 22,217,000 -- a loss of 160,000.
The total could be considered deceptive, however, because it includes federal, state and local workers. Budget problems have hit state and local payrolls, but BLS statistics say the federal workforce increased by 99,000 jobs from December 2007 to February 2011.
Where does that leave us?
Almost where we started.
Employment is not the chief measure of a growing or shrinking economy. (The gross domestic product (GDP) is. It has been growing, but too slowly to do much for employment, which is why the CRS report cites a "jobless recovery.")
But employment is the measure that concerns most people.
LaTourette was correct in saying there are fewer jobs now, in total or in the private sector, than there were before the recession. But an important detail to know for context is that jobs have been increasing, not diminishing, for the past year.
And while there are more jobs in the federal government, even without the temporary census workers who inflated earlier statistics, there are fewer government jobs in total.
LaTourette's statement amounts to a verbal snapshot. But while it’s a recognizable picture, it lacks some important details.
That's why we rate it, just as we have previous similar claims, as Half True.
Published: Monday, March 21st, 2011 at 6:00 a.m.
News-Herald, "LaTourette answers readers' questions," March 04, 2011
PolitiFact Ohio, "Rep. Steve LaTourette says that the stimulus has done little for private jobs while the federal workforce is booming," Aug. 18, 2010
PolitiFact Ohio, "John Boehner says Obama has presided over private job losses, increase in federal jobs," July 15, 2010
Email and phone interview with Deborah Setliff, communications director for LaTourette, March 11, 2011
Bureau of Labor Statistics, search form for Table B1: Employees on nonfarm payrolls by industry sector and selected industry detail
Congressional Research Service, "Job Growth During the Recovery," Feb. 17, 2011
Reuters, "Fourth-quarter growth revised down," Feb. 25, 2011
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