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By Sean Gorman August 18, 2011

Virginia Democratic Party claims Bob McDonnell has made no progress on jobs

The Virginia Democratic Party has not let up on its criticism of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s jobs record.

Their latest salvo is a web video attacking McDonnell’s performance.

"Despite the governor’s slick photo-ops and self congratulatory press releases, the reality is we have made no progress on jobs since he took office," the Virginia Democratic Party said in an August 5 statement about the video.

So the commonwealth’s jobs picture hasn’t brightened at all since McDonnell took over? We wanted to see if that was true.

To back up that assertion, Democrats pointed to a statement from the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, a Richmond think tank that said Virginia had made "no real progress" on job creation since the end of the recession in June 2009.

The think tank examines economic issues facing low and moderate income residents.

The group’s president, Michael Cassidy, noted in a July 22 statement that Virginia had more than 3.6 million jobs back in June 2009 and had about the same amount in June 2011.

But McDonnell didn’t take over as governor until the middle of January 2010. His first full month in office was February 2010 -- at which time the number of jobs was a bit lower.

In February 2010, there were 3,595,600 jobs in the state, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In June 2011, the latest month for which figures were available, that had risen to 3,643,800.

That means that since McDonnell has been governor, the state’s job rolls have increased by 48,200.

The June 2011 employment numbers showed a drop of roughly 14,000 jobs from the previous month’s job figures, a fall-off that Cassidy noted had erased 23 percent of the jobs gained since February 2010.

But even with that decline, there were still nearly 50,000 jobs gained overall since McDonnell took over.

Democrats have used overall job counts to argue the employment situation has at least gotten somewhat better under President Barack Obama. In an August 5, 2011 news release, the Democratic National Committee noted that 2.4 million private sector jobs have been created over the past 17 months. The news release noted that the "pace of recovery isn’t fast enough, but 2.4 million families are now better able to make ends meet."

Nationwide figures from the BLS show that from February 2010 to July 2011, private sector jobs rose 2.2 percent ending at 109.2 million. The total number of all jobs in the U.S. -- including government positions -- rose 1.5 percent during the same period ending at 131.2 million.

Brian Coy, a spokesman for the Virginia Democratic Party, also pointed out that the percentage of the state’s working age population with a job is at the same point it was in February 2010.

In February 2010, there were 3,891,279 people in Virginia who were employed, which was 64.3 percent of the state’s working age population of 6,049,306, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In June 2011, the number of people in Virginia with a job had grown to 3,951,327, but the size of the working age population also rose to 6,141,503. That meant the state still had the same 64.3 percent of its working age population employed.

"If you define progress as putting a greater percentage of our population to work (which seems like a fair definition to me), we haven’t made progress since Bob McDonnell took office," Coy said in an e-mail.

Terry Rephann, a regional economist with the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, said the percentage of people with jobs can stay constant even if there’s job creation in a state. A state like Virginia, for example, is a fairly typical southern state where the population is growing faster than in the northern states, he said.

As a result, the number of people with jobs has to increase even faster to keep up with that relatively higher rate of population growth, Rephann said.

Rephann said that the jobs environment in Virginia has improved a bit since the early part of last year.

But Rephann also said that the number of jobs created since McDonnell took office isn’t very impressive.

"Even 40,000 in a (state) economy of this size is not really enormous job growth," Rephann said. "But that’s the nature of the economic recovery that we’re in."

Virginia’s unemployment rate was at a peak of 7.2 percent at the start of McDonnell’s term. The number has consistently declined, and it was 6 percent in June 2011.

The commonwealth’s jobless rate is one third lower than the 9.1 percent national unemployment rate. Virginia is tied with Hawaii and Iowa for the eighth lowest statewide unemployment rate in the country.

Virginia’s percentage of working age residents with a job also compares favorably on a national stage. Nationwide, 58.2 percent of the country’s working age population was employed as of June 2011.

We’ll also point out, as we often do with these stories, that economists repeatedly tell us governors take too much credit and receive too much blame for short-term performance over their state economies.

A governor’s ability to affect brief business cycles is limited, economists say.

To sum up:

The state Democratic party said there has been "no progress" on creating jobs since McDonnell took office.

While the Dems are correct that the percentage of the state’s working age population with a job was the same in June 2011 as it was when McDonnell took office, there is no getting around the fact that the state added 48,200 jobs. Or that the unemployment rate has dropped during his term.

That it contradicts the Democrats’ blanket assertion that there has been no progress. We rate the claim False.

Our Sources

Interview with Brian Coy, August 8, 2011.

E-mail from Brian Coy, August 9, 2011.

The Commonwealth Institute, "Virginia backslides on jobs,"July 22, 2011.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Non-farm payroll survey," accessed August 8, 2011.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Local Area unemployment statistics," accessed August 15, 2011.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Employment status of the civilian non-institutional population," accessed August 15, 2011.

Interview with Terry Rephann, regional economist at the University of Virgina’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, August 16, 2011.

E-mail from Patrick Getlein, spokesman for The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, August 16, 2011.

The Washington Examiner, "Va. sheds quarter of new jobs gained in past 16 months,"July 24, 2011.

Democratic National Committee, "Fact check: John Boehner criticizes President Obama for job gains,"August 5, 2011.

Interview with Laura Goren, policy analyst at the Commonwealth Institute on August 16, 2011.

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Virginia Democratic Party claims Bob McDonnell has made no progress on jobs

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