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By Sean Gorman February 26, 2011

Tim Kaine says jobs increased 1 percent under George Bush while population grew 10 percent

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine may not have given the crowd at the Feb. 19 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Richmond the scoop on whether he’s running for the U.S. Senate, but he made no secret of his disdain for former President George W. Bush’s record on job creation.

Kaine said in a speech that during the Bush administration "while the population in that period grew by 10 percent, the number of jobs in the nation grew by 1 percent."

We wondered if that was really the case. Alec Gerlach, a DNC spokesman, couldn’t identify the source on which the former Virginia governor based his claim. So we tried to find it on our own, comparing census records from January 2001 - the month Bush was sworn in - to January 2009, when Bush left office.

That can be a bit tricky because the U.S. Census Bureau only does actual counts at the start of each decade, and that doesn’t exactly line up with Bush’s term, which ran from Jan. 20, 2001 to Jan. 20, 2009. Between each census, however, the bureau provides monthly estimates on the number of people in the country.

The figures show that on Jan. 1, 2001, the U.S. population was 283.7 million. By Jan.1, 2009, that number had risen to 305.8 million.

Those estimates show the population increasing by about 7.8 percent, below Kaine’s claim that the population jumped by 10 percent under Bush.

What about the second half of Kaine’s claim that the number of jobs only grew by 1 percent under Bush’s tenure?

We turned to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which show that in the month that the former president took office, there were about 132.5 million non-farm employees in the U.S.

In January 2008, the month after the official start of the Great Recession, the total number of non-farm workers peaked at 138 million.

But as the economic downturn took hold, that number declined, and by the time Bush left office in January 2009 there were 133.6 million non-farm employees.

So over the course of Bush Administration, the number of non-farm workers rose by about 1.1 million, or .83 percent. That’s just shy of Kaine’s claim that the number of jobs rose by 1 percent under Bush.

While Kaine’s numbers are a little off on employment and census, he’s right in suggesting that that U.S. population grew 10 times faster that jobs during George W. Bush’s presidency.

Even so, several economists told us comparing raw population growth and job numbers is not a preferred way to examine job creation versus demand. That’s because not all of the new people -- such as babies born during the Bush administration -- need jobs.

We were told a more meaningful measure is labor force participation: the percentage of the population between 16 and 64 that is either employed or looking for work. According to BLS, participation was at 67.2 percent when Bush took office and 65.7 percent when he left.

Here’s another thing to keep in mind: Economists have told us time and again -- on this claim and others -- that the policies of presidents and governors have only minor impact on economic cycles and job creation. "They get too much credit and too much blame," said Sylvia A. Allegretto, economist at the Institute for Research on Labor & Employment at the University of California, Berkeley.

Kaine’s comment didn’t address job growth in Virginia during the Bush administration. But it you’re curious, Virginia did better than the nation on Kaine’s scale.

The number of nonfarm employees in the Virginia rose from 3.53 million in January 2001 to 3.7 million in January 2009 -- an increase of 4.8 percent.

The U.S. Census estimate for Virginia that was closest to the start of Bush’s term was a July 1, 2001,  figure showing the state had 7.19 million.  A July 1, 2009, estimate shows the state’s population had grown to 7.88 million -- a 9.6 percent increase.

To summarize, Kaine said that during former President George W. Bush’s administration, the U.S. population increased by 10 percent while the number of jobs went up only 1 percent.

Estimates from the U.S. Census and the BLS show that during the Bush years, the population increased by 7.8 percent while the number of jobs rose by .83 percent.

Kaine’s numbers are a little off his and spokesman doesn’t know where they came from. Even so, his suggestion that population growth outpaced job growth by a ratio of 10 to 1 is pretty much on the mark, so we rate his claim Mostly True.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Non-farm employment, accessed on Feb. 21-22, 2011.

U.S. Census Bureau, Monthly population estimates, accessed on Feb. 21, 2011.

Tim Kaine, Jefferson-Jackson Dinner speech, Feb, 19, 2011.

E-mail from Democratic National Committee spokesman Alec Gerlach on Feb. 23, 2011.

National Bureau of Economic Research website, accessed on Feb. 23, 2011.

Telephone interview with Malkia McLeod, spokeswoman with the U.S. Census Bureau on Feb. 23, 2011.

Telephone interview with John Knapp, senior economist at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

Telephone interview with Mitra Tossi, a labor force analyst at the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Feb. 23, 2011.

E-mail interview with Sylvia Allegretto, economist at the Institute for Research on Labor & Employment at the University of California, Berkeley, Feb. 24, 2011.

E-mail interview with James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics for The Heritage Foundation, Feb. 25, 2011.  

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