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When it comes to fostering jobs, Gov. Bob McDonnell says Republican governors are tops.
"In states with Republican governors, the average unemployment rate is a full point lower than in states with Democratic governors," McDonnell said at the Republican National Convention on Aug. 28.
McDonnell is chairman of the Republican Governors Association and a strong supporter of Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential nominee. He’s made repeated statements this year that try to offer mathematical proof that the policies of Republican governors lead to more jobs than those of their Democratic counterparts.
PolitiFact Virginia and our colleagues in other states have examined many statements in which governors take credit for good employment news or get blamed for bad job trends. Economists are skeptical of such claims, telling us that governors have limited impact on their state economies
So we didn’t submit McDonnell’s claim to the Truth-O-Meter, but we took a look at it and wanted share what we found.
Tucker Martin, a spokesman for McDonnell, said the statement was based on seasonally-adjusted figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the July 2012 unemployment level in states with a GOP governor and states with a Democratic governor.
In the 29 states with a Republican governor, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent and in the 20 Democratic states, the rate was 8.7 percent, Martin said. His calculations didn’t include Rhode Island where Lincoln Chafee, an independent, is governor.
We did our own calculations and found the governor’s figures were correct, but not particularly meaningful.
For additional context, we also examined unemployment numbers from two years earlier, when Democrats who held the majority of governorships.
In July 2010, the 26 states with Democratic governors had an average unemployment rate of 9.2 percent. In the 24 states with a GOP governor, the unemployment rate was 9.9 percent.
We wouldn’t say that the July 2010 Democratic numbers prove the Democrats to be better job creators or that the July 2012 numbers prove the GOP deserves credit. What the numbers show is that states with abundant natural resources and business-friendly traditions tend to have low unemployment regardless of which party occupies the governor’s mansion.
Talking Points Memo noted in a March 2012 story that states with Democratic governors had an average unemployment rate in the second half of 2010 that was lower than the jobless rate in states with Republican governors. That trend changed immediately, Talking Points noted, in January 2011 just two months after an election that saw Republicans pick up governors seats across the country.
In March, we noted McDonnell was correct in saying 7 out of 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates in December 2011 had Republican governors. But we also found he was on shaky ground in attributing those results to GOP governors because three of the seven states were also on the 10 lowest unemployment list back in December 2010, when a Democratic governor had been in office for at least 8 years.
Real Clear Politics, "Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s RNC remarks,"August 28, 2012 (statement starts nearly 5 minutes into video).
E-mails from Tucker Martin, spokesman for Gov. Bob McDonnell, August 28-29, 2012.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics, accessed August 28 and 29, 2012.
National Governor’s Association, Governor’s roster 2010, accessed August 29, 2012.
National Governor’s Association, Governor’s roster 2012, accessed August 29, 2012.
Talking Points Memo, "A tale of two economies: the GOP’s schizophrenic jobs message," March 14, 2012.
PolitiFact Virginia, "McDonnell says 7 out of 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates have Republican governors,"March 12, 2012.
CNN Fact Check, "Lower unemployment in GOP-led states?"August 29, 2012.
Washington Post, "For Romney and GOP governors, mixed messages on the economy,"June 21, 2012.
Associated Press,"Romney, GOP guvs have differing takes on economy,"May 18, 2012.