President Barack Obama touched on jobs, business climate and other economic topics during his Labor Day speech in Milwaukee on Sept. 1, 2014. President Barack Obama touched on jobs, business climate and other economic topics during his Labor Day speech in Milwaukee on Sept. 1, 2014.

President Barack Obama touched on jobs, business climate and other economic topics during his Labor Day speech in Milwaukee on Sept. 1, 2014.

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher September 2, 2014

While talking up the economy during his Labor Day appearance in Milwaukee, President Barack Obama made several claims that have either been rated on the Truth-O-Meter or covered in news stories in recent months.

The statements in his Sept. 1, 2014 speech covered jobs, exports, oil production, high school graduation rates, business climate and a claim that a university president gave up $90,000 in salary to help his low-income employees.

Let's take a look.

  • "The last six months, we’ve created more than 200,000 jobs each month -– that’s the first time that’s happened since 1997."

That's almost word for word from a number of Aug. 1, 2014 news articles about a new U.S. Labor Department report. Among others, the Wall Street Journal reported that July 2014 was the first time since 1997 that employers added 200,000 or more jobs in six consecutive months.

  • "Our businesses export more goods made right here in America to the rest of the world than ever before."

When Obama made the same claim in August 2013, PolitiFact National rated it True. Our colleagues found the U.S. exported more than $134 billion worth of goods in June 2013, the most ever, even accounting for inflation.

  • "The world’s number-one oil and gas producer -- it’s not Russia, it’s not Saudi Arabia -- it’s the U.S. of A.  We are the largest producer."

This claim also comes out of the headlines. Quoting reports, Bloomberg said in a July 4, 2014 news article that the United States was the biggest producer of oil and natural gas liquids, and that it would remain the world’s biggest oil producer in 2014 after overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia as extraction of energy from shale rock spurs the nation’s economic recovery.

  • "For the first time in nearly 20 years, America now produces more oil than we buy from other countries."

Obama made the same claim in his State of the Union speech in January 2014. PolitiFact National rated it True, noting the trend had been in the works for awhile, including dynamics that pre-date the Obama administration.

  • "Our high school graduation rate is at a record high."

PolitiFact National rated that statement Half True when Obama made it in March 2014.

On paper, it was an accurate claim using the federal government's metric, but that only accounts for public school students, and states and local school districts collect the data differently, creating inconsistencies. Our colleagues also found another trusted model that put the high point at 1969.

  • "For the first time in more than a decade, business leaders around the world, when you ask them, where do you want to invest, what’s the number-one place to invest, they don’t say China, they don’t say Germany -- they say the United States of America."

Obama made the same claim in his January 2014 State of the Union speech. PolitiFact National rated it Mostly True.

Obama was referring to the 2013 A.T. Kearney Foreign Direct Investment Confidence Index, which surveys global business leaders to determine their investment attitudes toward nations across the world. The United States did top the list for the first time since 2001, knocking China out of the top slot. But a broader look at other rankings doesn’t make the United States seem like such a powerhouse, even if it does still best China in some lists.

  • "Last month, the president of Kentucky State University, he gave himself a $90,000 pay cut so that he could raise wages for his lowest-paid employees."

Many news outlets reported on this story in early August 2014. The Lexington Herald-Leader’s article said Raymond Burse, interim president at Kentucky State, in Frankfort, had given up more than $90,000 of his salary so university workers earning minimum wage could have their earnings increased to $10.25 an hour. His salary had been set at $350,000.

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Our Sources

The White House, transcript of President Barack Obama's remarks in Milwaukee, Sept. 1, 2014

Wall Street Journal, "Hiring settles into steady gains," Aug. 1, 2014

PolitiFact National, "Obama says exports of U.S. goods at all-time high," Aug. 20, 2013

Bloomberg, "U.S. Seen as Biggest Oil Producer After Overtaking Saudi Arabia," July 4, 2014

PolitiFact National, "In State of the Union, Obama says U.S. produces more oil than it buys," Jan. 28, 2014

Lexington Herald-Leader, "KSU president gives up over $90,000 of his salary to boost lowest-paid campus employees," Aug. 1, 2014

PolitiFact National, "Barack Obama says high schoolers are graduating at an all-time high," March 26, 2014

PolitiFact National, "Business leaders declared ‘China is no longer the world’s No. 1 place to invest; America is,’ Obama says," Jan. 29, 2014

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

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