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As the House Republican leader, Ohio’s John Boehner seizes every opportunity to counter any message that President Barack Obama attempts to convey. When Obama touted his efforts to resuscitate the economy during a July 8, 2010, appearance in Kansas City, Missouri, Boehner posted his counterpoint titled "Where are the Jobs, Mr. President?" in a column on the conservative TownHall website.
And, on the day Obama was scheduled to speak at an electric battery plant in Holland, Mich., he hit back again with an op-ed in the Detroit News July 15.
"Since February 2009 (when the economic stimulus bill was passed) our economy has lost roughly 3 million private sector jobs while the federal government has grown by more than 400,000 jobs," Boehner wrote.
With the administration simultaneously putting a more favorable spin on its record of job creation, we thought it would be worth checking each side's facts.
Boehner’s office said his column was based on data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, which releases monthly figures on nationwide employment and unemployment.
We'll take Boehner's two claims in order.
• Has the economy lost roughly 3 million private sector jobs since February 2009? Yes.
First we should note that Boehner was specific about the statistic he was using -- private-sector jobs, not total jobs. So we’ve used that statistic to judge his claim.
According to BLS, 110,961,000 Americans were employed in the private sector in January 2009. By June 2010 -- the most recent month available -- that number had fallen to 107,700,000. That's a drop of 3.26 million jobs -- or "roughly 3 million" in Boehner’s words.
By beginning his count in January 2009 -- even though the bill was passed in February 2009 -- Boehner’s number takes into account all the job losses from February. You could instead start counting in February 2009; in that case, the number of jobs lost would be somewhat further from Boehner’s claim -- 2.55 million jobs.
It’s worth noting that the biggest job hemorrhages came in February and March of 2009, when 726,000 and 753,000 jobs disappeared. The losses slowed down into last summer and fall, and gains were recorded for the first five months of 2010.
• Has the federal government payroll grown by more than 400,000 jobs since February 2009? Yes -- but with a major asterisk.
In January 2009, there were 2,803,000 federal employees. By June 2010, there were 3,208,000 -- an increase of 405,000.
Here's the asterisk: The June numbers are inflated by temporary Census workers whose jobs are slated to end in a matter of months.
By way of comparison, we used BLS estimates of the temporary Census work force to adjust the monthly employment figures. Doing so drops the January 2009 federal employment level by 5,000 to 2,798,000, while the June 2010 level drops by 339,000 to 2,869,000. That reduces the federal employment increase to 71,000 -- far less than the 400,000 Boehner cited.
While technically accurate, Boehner's statistics are misleading because the government workforce is inflated by the temporary census workers. For this reason, we rate his claim Half True.
Detroit News, "U.S. Rep John Boehner: Spending spree won't fix our ailing economy" (op-ed), July 15, 2010
Bureau of Labor Statistics, search form for Table B-1. Employees on nonfarm payrolls by industry sector and selected industry detail, accessed July 15, 2010
Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Census 2010 temporary and intermittent workers and Federal government employment" (fact sheet), accessed July 15, 2010
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