Fact-checking claims on jobs from across the nation
On the heels of a bruising battle over the debt ceiling -- and after promising to refocus his attention on jobs -- President Barack Obama received some cautiously optimistic news about job creation on Aug. 5, 2011.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the U.S. economy created a net 117,000 jobs in July, exceeding experts’ predictions. Private-sector payrolls rose by 154,000, also exceeding expectations. In addition, BLS revised upward the two previous months’ job figures, which before the revisions had been considered dismal.
It’s unclear whether this is the start of an upward trend or just a blip, and the pace of job creation is still considered weak for this point in the job cycle. But we thought it would be a good time to review some recent fact checks on jobs by PolitiFact’s national staff as well as its state affiliates.
We’ll note that the five items below had some problems with accuracy: One earned a Mostly False, three earned a False, and one earned a Pants on Fire.
• Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.: There was a "loss of eight million jobs during the Bush eight years."
During a Senate floor speechon Aug. 2, 2011, Reid compared the job-creation records of President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush.
"My friend (Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.) talks about no new taxes," Reid said. "Mr. President, if their theory was right, with these huge (tax cuts) that took place during the Bush eight years, the economy should be thriving. These tax cuts have not helped the economy. The loss of eight million jobs during the Bush eight years, two wars started, unfunded, all on borrowed money, these tax cuts all on borrowed money -- if the tax cuts were so good, the economy should be thriving. If we go back to the prior eight years during President Clinton’s administration, 23 million new jobs were created."
We concluded that Reid had a point in saying that there was a "loss of eight million jobs" -- but it didn’t come "during the Bush eight years." The loss of eight million jobs occurred during a roughly two-year period shared more or less equally between Bush and Obama. We rated Reid’s statement Pants on Fire.
• Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho. Tax increases under Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm led to state unemployment going from 6.8 percent to 15.3 percent.
During the July 31, 2011, edition of NBC’s Meet the Press, Labrador faced off with former Michigan Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm over the causes of her state’s economic troubles.
Labrador -- a tea party-affiliated House freshman -- said, "Let's talk about the truth about what happened in Michigan. Gov. Granholm actually supported the highest tax increases in the history of Michigan, and unemployment went from 6.8 percent to 15.3 percent."
We found that Labrador used unrevised jobs figures, but we decided that his recap of the arc of Michigan unemployment was fair. However, while higher taxes may have boosted unemployment on the margins, most of the available evidence suggests that Michigan’s rise in unemployment tracked the course of the national recession. The experts we spoke to agreed that the impact of tax policy likely played a relatively minor role in the unemployment spike Labrador was referring to in 2008 and 2009. We rated his statement Mostly False.
• Republican Party of Wisconsin: Says "over 50 percent of U.S. job growth in June came" from Wisconsin.
When a monthly report showed a sharp increase in the number of jobs in Wisconsin in June 2011 -- an estimated net increase of 12,900 jobs, or 9,500 if you just consider the private sector -- Republican Gov. Scott Walker cheered the report. Meanwhile, the state Republican Party noted that there had been only 18,000 jobs created nationwide in June, so it issued a news release with this statement: "Today, we learned that over 50 percent of U.S. job growth in June came from our state."
But Walker, the state GOP and the others touting the national numbers were making a flawed comparison. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does separate national and state-by-state studies, each with different parameters and margins of error. The agency says it’s wrong to mix the two estimates -- a warning included as a footnote on the documents themselves. PolitiFact Wisconsin rated the state GOP claim False.
• Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas: "The only growth sector that we’ve had in the last two years in America is government growth."
Questioned about how the United States should bring down its national debt, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas said government spending cuts, not tax increases, are the best tool.
"We think the government is spending too much," the Republican said during a June 29, 2011 interview on CNBC. "The only growth sector that we've had in the last two years in America is government growth. That's not the way to come out of this massive $14 trillion debt burden that most surely is going to affect the middle class, and so I think the answer is not to tax anyone further, but to cut government spending."
PolitiFact Texas concluded that there was no reason to penalize Hutchison for failing to specify that by "government," she meant "federal." But she relied on an outdated report speaking to a three-year, not two-year, period. Over the two-year period that she noted, the federal government was not the only growth sector. Private-sector employment also increased. Her statement earned a rating of False.
• One New Jersey, a Democratic-backed group: Said New Jersey has fewer jobs since Republican Gov. Chris Christie took office.
On the heels of a cut-throat budget battle, a Democratic-backed group called One New Jersey took aim at Republican Gov. Chris Christie. In a July 20 press release, One New Jersey spokesman Joshua Henne said, "After nearly two years of Christie’s bluster, middle-class and working families are far worse-off than when he took office – with less jobs and higher property taxes."
After reviewing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PolitiFact New Jersey found that Henne cited the wrong set of data and that the proper data used to measure jobs shows a slight increase since Christie became governor, even though some economists said growth is mainly flat. PolitiFact New Jersey rated the statement False.