Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Ad Watch: Claims about Romney's jobs record filled with half truths

This Obama campaign ad attacks Romney's economic record in Massachusetts.

As the presidential race heats up, Republicans and Democrats alike have been focusing on Mitt Romney’s record on job creation while he was the governor of Massachusetts.

Our colleagues at PolitiFact national has examined several claims about that state’s employment picture while Romney was in office. Here’s a breakdown of what they found:

President Barack Obama ad claim: "Romney outsourced call center jobs to India."

Obama’s campaign pointed to news reports from 2004 -- the second year of Romney’s term. The Democratic legislature sent Romney a budget with an amendment to prohibit the state from "contracting with companies that outsource the state’s work to other countries," according to the Boston Globe.

At the time, Massachusetts had a $160,000 contract with Citigroup to process debit cards for food stamps. Citigroup outsourced its customer service call center to India. Massachusetts was hardly unique; a 2005 study by the General Accounting Office found 43 states had contracts that outsourced work.

Romney vetoed the amendment, noting that outsourcing jobs saved the state money and even if those positions returned to the United States, they would not necessarily be located in Massachusetts, which did not have many call centers. The bottom line, he said, was that the bill would cost his state and provide little or no benefit.

PolitiFact ruled the ad claim Half True, saying the wording of Obama’s statement suggests a broad and deliberate policy by Romney to send work overseas. By vetoing the bill,  Romney simply let an arrangement continue.

Romney ad claim: Says he reduced Massachusetts unemployment to just 4.7 percent.

According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate indeed fell to 4.7 percent in December 2006, Romney’s last full month in office.

Still, the number mirrored a national trend. From January 2003 until January 2007 (Romney’s first and last months in office) the national unemployment rate fell from 5.8 percent to 4.6 percent. In Massachusetts during that time, unemployment dropped from 5.6 percent to 4.6 percent.

The economy was recovering from a recession while Romney was in office. As far as Romney’s impact, PolitiFact noted economists have repeatedly said a governor’s policies have a relatively small effect on a state economy.

PolitiFact rated this claim Half True saying while the number is accurate, the commercial overreaches by suggesting Romney achieved the unemployment rate drop on his own.

Obama ad claim: "When Mitt Romney was governor, Massachusetts lost 40,000 manufacturing jobs, a rate twice the national average."

Between January 2003 and January 2007 (the first and last months of Romney’s term) manufacturing jobs in Massachusetts fell from 336,000 to 298,200 -- a drop of 38,000 and close to the number Obama’s campaign cited. The state’s manufacturing jobs fell 11.3 percent during that period, nearly twice the rate of the nation, just as the ad claimed.

Is Romney to blame? PolitiFact noted that the 11.3 percent manufacturing job loss under Romney was lower than the 16.7 percent reduction that occurred during the four years prior to his governorship. In the four years after Romney left the governor’s office, the manufacturing job loss was 15.1 percent, which was higher than the rate under Romney.

PolitiFact rated this ad claim Half True. Although the numbers are right, PolitiFact said it is a stretch to lay the manufacturing  job loss at Romney’s feet.

Obama Adviser David Axelrod claim: Under Gov. Romney Massachusetts ranked 47th in job creation.

PolitiFact examined seasonally adjusted figures BLS figures from December 2002 to December 2006 -- the month before Romney was inaugurated through his last full month is office.

Massachusetts did rank 47th in job growth during that time. PolitiFact again noted that governors have a small impacts on a state economies. It rated Axelrod's claim Half True, saying that while the number was right, Obama’s campaign exaggerated Romney’s past control over Massachusetts’ job market.

PolitiFact also ruled Half True a statement by Eric Fehrnstrom, a Romney adviser. He recently said that, under Romney, Massachusetts initially ranked last among states in job growth but moved up to "the middle of the pack" by the end of his term. While the rankings are basically correct, PolitiFact found that like the Obama campaign, Fehrnstrom exaggerated Romney’s impact on Massachusetts’ economy.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell made comments very similar to Fehrnstrom’s during a June 3 interview on CNN, saying Massachusetts went from 47th to 30th in job creation while Romney was in office.