Monday, October 20th, 2014

The battle over job growth in Massachusetts

President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are dueling with statistics over Romney's job-creation record as Massachusetts governor.
President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are dueling with statistics over Romney's job-creation record as Massachusetts governor.

The presidential campaigns are sparring over how much job growth Massachusetts experienced during Mitt Romney’s single term as governor.

As it turns out, they’re both right -- at least partly.

The campaign of President Barack Obama fired first, saying for months that Massachusetts ranked 47th in job creation during Romney’s term.

Over the weekend,  the Romney camp put a positive spin on the numbers by saying that while Massachusetts did rank last in state job growth early in Romney’s term, it had risen by the end of his governorship to "the middle of the pack."

Both talking points come from employment statistics compiled by the federal government. When we checked the campaigns’ math, we found that both claims are numerically accurate. However, both sides overestimated how much impact a governor such as Romney would have had on job growth. So we rated both claims Half True.

Both campaigns used as their measurement the total number of jobs in the state. We also wondered what the data would show if you looked instead at unemployment rates.

It turns out that both Massachusetts and the U.S. as a whole saw their unemployment rates drop during Romney’s governorship -- somewhat more on a national basis than in Massachusetts, but not dramatically so.

For instance, if you take the numbers from January 2003 to January 2007 -- Romney’s first and last months in office -- you find a drop of 1.2 percentage points nationally (from 5.8 percent to 4.6 percent) and 1.0 points in Massachusetts (from 5.6 percent to 4.6 percent).

In other words, when all is said and done, the unemployment trend in Romney-era Massachusetts wasn’t all that much different from that of the nation as a whole.