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During a Dec. 5, 2011, news conference, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich took aim at President Barack Obama’s record on jobs.
"I think the president has now spent three years proving that he kills jobs in energy, he kills jobs in manufacturing, he kills jobs in virtually every part of American life. I mean, notice -- the only reason the unemployment rate is going down is because … twice as many people dropped out of the employment pool as the number of jobs were created."
We’re going to check this statement in two parts. In this item, we’ll check the claim that President Barack Obama "has now spent three years proving that he kills jobs in energy, he kills jobs in manufacturing." In a separate item, we’ll check the claim that "the only reason the unemployment rate is going down is because … twice as many people dropped out of the employment pool as the number of jobs were created."
For this item, we're focusing on Gingrich’s claim’s about energy and manufacturing jobs.
We used data showing net changes in jobs -- that is, jobs created minus jobs lost -- rather than just jobs lost (or "killed"). We are also interpreting Gingrich’s comment to mean that Obama is the cause for killing existing jobs, not that Obama has prevented theoretical future jobs from materializing.
Now, to the numbers, which are collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We looked at two time periods -- one between January 2009 and November 2011, which represents the entirety of Obama’s time in office, and the other between January 2010 and November 2011, which covers the period starting one year into his presidency, a point at which one would assume that Obama’s policies have begun to have some impact.
For energy, we found two relevant categories in the BLS data, oil and gas extraction and mining.
During the entire Obama presidency, employment in the oil and gas extraction sector grew by 18,800 jobs, or an increase of 11 percent. Over the same period, jobs in mining declined by 9,200, or 4 percent. Combining the two categories, energy jobs grew by 9,600 jobs, or 2 percent.
Beginning one year into Obama’s presidency, oil and gas extraction jobs increased by 27,500, a rise of 18 percent. Mining jobs grew by 14,900, or 8 percent. Combined, the two sectors increased by 42,400 jobs, or 12 percent.
So over both periods, the energy sector grew in absolute terms -- and if you measure beginning in January 2010, the increase has been quite healthy at 12 percent over two years.
During the entire Obama presidency, the number of manufacturing jobs has declined by 795,000, or 6 percent. Since January 2010, though, the number of manufacturing jobs has increased by 299,000, a rise of 2.6 percent over two years.
The increase since January 2010 is modest -- a bit over 1 percent per year -- and it hasn’t come close to bringing manufacturing employment back up to the level it was when Obama was inaugurated in the midst of a severe recession. Yet the rise in Obama’s second and third year becomes more robust once it’s put into historical context.
In general, manufacturing employment has declined more or less steadily since the mid-1970s. The last time manufacturing jobs saw such a large and sustained numerical increase was in the early 1990s. So while the increase in years two and three of the Obama presidency is relatively small, it is the best in about two decades.
One way to illustrate the long-term decline of manufacturing jobs is to look at how the numbers have moved during the past few presidencies. In the list below, we began counting from one year into each president’s tenure through to the end of their term. Using that methodology, here are the numbers of manufacturing jobs gained or lost per year:
Barack Obama: Increase of 157,368 manufacturing jobs per year in office
George W. Bush: Decrease of 434,143 manufacturing jobs per year in office
Bill Clinton: Increase of 37,143 manufacturing jobs per year in office
George H.W. Bush: Decrease of 336,000 manufacturing jobs per year in office
Ronald Reagan: Increase of 1,429 manufacturing jobs per year in office
Jimmy Carter: Increase of 15,333 manufacturing jobs per year in office
So by this measure, manufacturing jobs have actually increased by more under Obama than under any of his recent predecessors.
A final note: It’s PolitiFact’s policy not to focus solely on the accuracy of the numbers in political attacks (or, conversely, efforts to claim political credit) but also to determine whether blame or credit for the results is justified. For job-creation and job-loss claims, we have ruled that politicians’ policies are just one factor in employment levels, making even statistically accurate claims less than True on our Truth-O-Meter.
Gingrich is free to argue that environmental regulations, tax policies and the like have prevented the energy and manufacturing sectors from creating as many jobs as they otherwise might. But in this case, Ginrgich said that Obama "has now spent three years proving that he kills jobs in energy, he kills jobs in manufacturing." That’s a different standard, one which means that Obama’s policies have destroyed existing jobs on a net basis.
Right off the bat, we need to downgrade Gingrich’s statement due to its allocation of blame. The job market is subject to many factors, not just Obama’s policies, so it’s unfair to lay all of the blame on the president. But even on the numbers, the claim’s accuracy is mixed at best.
Combined, energy extraction jobs have increased in absolute numbers since Obama took office and have risen quite rapidly over the past two years. Meanwhile, manufacturing jobs are down over the course of Obama’s presidency, but they are up during the past two years at the fastest pace in two decades. On balance, we rate Gingrich’s statement Mostly False.
Newt Gingrich, transcript of a press conference, Dec. 5, 2011 (CQ subscribers only)
Bureau of Labor Statistics, main index page for "Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National)," accessed Dec. 6, 2011
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