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By Willoughby Mariano June 5, 2010

"Chalkboard": Job figures don't add up to the whole story

A TV ad for the Roy Barnes gubernatorial campaign harks back to a rosier time in Georgia history -- the last recession.

The ad, called "Chalkboard," says that the number of jobs in this state rose from 1999 through 2003 while Barnes was governor, even though his term included a recession that ended nationally in November 2001. Georgia struggled to add jobs until 2003. The commercial puts it this way:

"Roy Barnes will make Georgia work. Again. When he was governor, Georgia created 235,000 jobs. We can do it again. And more."

Georgia created jobs? Despite the recession?

Barnes' statement implies that his actions led to the creation of these jobs, an assertion that is impossible to prove. Many factors encourage job creation, and many of those are outside any governor's purview.

What we can do is establish whether he left Georgia's economy as healthy as he portrayed it to be. Here goes:

The Barnes campaign credits the data to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which collaborates with state governments to publish monthly figures on the country's economic health. Those figures show that while employment ticked up and down during Barnes' tenure, when it was all said and done Georgia was left with more than 238,000 additional jobs.

In December 1998, the number of people employed was 3,925,076. By December 2002, it was 4,163,184. Generally, economists think an increase in employment is good.

Yet a closer look shows that despite the growth, jobs grew tougher to get under the Barnes administration.

Those same BLS figures show Georgia's unemployment rate rose a full percentage point from 3.9 percent to 4.9 percent. The number of unemployed Georgians grew by more than 52,000.

We interviewed two experts who said job growth and unemployment can take place at the same time because during a recession job-seekers often give up and the labor force shrinks.

As the economy picks up, the number of available jobs grows. So does the labor force. People who gave up looking for work decide to give it another shot. But until there are enough jobs to absorb the expanding labor force, unemployment grows, too.

So during the end of Barnes' watch, things weren't great for job-seekers. But overall, economic data show the state's economy did grow.

Georgia's overall gross domestic product grew from about $224 billion to $267 billion. Georgia's annual personal income -- the income received by all the residents of the state -- increased during Barnes' time as well.

Barnes' statement was correct but gave the impression that employment conditions were stronger than they were. We therefore rate Barnes' claim as Half True.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

Interview, Thomas "Danny" Boston, professor of economics, Georgia Institute of Technology. May 25, 2010.

Interview, Jeffrey Humphreys, director, Simon S. Selig Jr. Center for Economic Growth. May 25, 2010.

Interview, Chris Carpenter, campaign manager, Roy Barnes 2010. May 25, 2010.

News release, "Roy 2010 Up On Atlanta Airwaves," Roy Barnes Campaign.

National Bureau of Economic Research, Business Cycle Dating Committee, Report, July 17, 2003.

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Data, Accessed May 25, 2010.

U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Gross Domestic Product by State, Accessed May 26, 2010.

U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, State Income and Employment Summary, Accessed May 26, 2010.

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"Chalkboard": Job figures don't add up to the whole story

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