It’s all about jobs, Gov. Bob McDonnell says.
During an Election Day interview, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough hailed McDonnell as the "Elvis" of the job creation message that moved voters this fall. "You started this in 2009 before anyone got this," Scarborough told the governor, referring to McDonnell’s pledge to create jobs during his successful campaign last year.
McDonnell replied that since taking office in January, "we’ve been able to create about 60,000 net new jobs" in Virginia.
We had two questions about McDonnell’s statement: Is his number right; and how much credit does the governor deserve for any upswing in Virginia employment since he took office?
We first checked the claim of "about 60,000 net new jobs." Stacey Johnson, McDonnell’s press secretary, said the number came from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Our next call went to the office of Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who heads McDonnell’s jobs team. Randy Marcus, Bolling’s chief of staff, compiles the job-creation figures for the administration. Marcus said he takes the most current BLS monthly figure for non-farm jobs in Virginia. Then he subtracts the number of non-farm jobs in Virginia in February, McDonnell’s first full month in office. The remainder is what the administration considers to be Virginia’s net job gain under McDonnell. It includes full and part-time jobs in the public and private sectors.
We ran the computation, based on the latest BLS numbers that had been posted more than a week before McDonnell’s appearance on MSNBC. Here’s our result:
Virginia Workers, Sept. 2010 3,637,200
Virginia Workers, Feb. 2010 3,581,800
Net job gain under McDonnell 55,400
The governor’s claim of creating about 60,000 new jobs was a tad inflated, but certainly in the ballpark.
In July, McDonnell claimed 71,500 new Virginia jobs had been created since he took office. We checked those numbers and found them dead on. Much of the job loss since then was caused by the layoff of federal census workers and the slowing of construction.
McDonnell also said on MSNBC that only Texas has gained more jobs than Virginia since February. He’s right, according to BLS statistics. Texas has added 128,800 jobs since February.
Virginia has experienced a 1.55 percent increase in jobs since February. That ranks sixth. The District of Columbia leads everyone with 2.38 percent growth.
Now, let’s look at McDonnell’s statement "we’ve" created about 60,000 jobs. It suggests the new slots are the result of his administration’s actions.
"It’s not unique to the Governor, but it bothers me how all politicians take credit for creating jobs," said John Knapp, senior economist for the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at The University of Virginia. "Barack Obama is not president of the economy and Bob McDonnell is not governor of the economy. Of course, what they do can have a marginal affect on things, but there are many other elements involved in creating jobs."
Knapp added that state policies affect job creation development over the long run. "But as year or two out, new state policies are not going to have a major impact on the economy."
During recent decades, an array of prominent publications have consistently rated Virginia in the top handful of business-friendly states, noting the Commonwealth’s low tax rates, and laws barring compulsory union membership.
Johnson said it is not McDonnell’s intention to claim credit for all new jobs under his watch. "It’s a cumulative effort," she said. "It’s the private sector that creates jobs; government can merely help set a conducive climate."
Johnson said that when McDonnell said "we’ve" created about 60,000 net new jobs, "he was referring to Virginia."
It’s noteworthy that this February -- the month McDonnell uses as the starting benchmark for his administration’s job efforts -- Virginia’s unemployment rate was 7.2 percent, the highest in 28 years. The unemployment rate in September dipped to 6.8 percent, ranking Virginia as the eighth lowest state.
The national unemployment rate was 9.7 percent in February and 9.6 percent in September.
The vast majority of new Virginia jobs since February fell into one of three broad categories: leisure and hospitality; professional and business services; or trade, transportation and utilities.
McDonnell, a Republican, has been praised by legislators from both political parties for aggressively recruiting new businesses. Over the first nine months of his administration -- starting in February, as the governor prefers -- the state has announced 186 business development deals promising 12,249 new jobs, according to statistics kept by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
In comparison, the state announced 213 development deals promising 11,656 new jobs during the final nine months of Gov. Tim Kaine’s term, ending in January.
It’s impossible to know how many how many of the jobs promised in state economic development announcements actually translate into employment gains recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many of the jobs are speculative and depend on construction and expansion of plants before people are hired.
So let’s review.
It’s clear the governor wants credit for the new jobs created in Virginia since February. But many factors beyond a governor’s purview influence employment figures and Virginia has benefited a strong business climate for decades. Some of the jobs filled since McDonnell took office were no doubt spawned by economic developments deals announced Kaine. It’s impossible to assign full credit to anyone.
Regardless of credit, have "about 60,000 net new jobs" been created in Virginia since February? It depends how you measure "about." The correct number at the time was 55,400. The governor was a little bit off, but he wasn’t blowing smoke.
For that reason, we rate his claim Mostly True.
It’s all about jobs, Gov. Bob McDonnell says.