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By Sean Gorman July 18, 2011

McDonnell says 90 percent of Virginia's job growth has been in private sector

In a recent television interview, Gov. Bob McDonnell was asked whether Virginia’s strong employment numbers should be at least partially credited to the state’s proximity to Washington.

"How much of a wind is at your back just from being next to the center of government?" asked Joe Kerne, the host of CNBC’s Squawk Box.

McDonnell downplayed the effect of the federal government on Virginia’s job picture.

"The fact that we’ve got proximity to Washington, D.C., is certainly somewhat helpful, but I will say that most of the job growth (in Virginia), in fact 90 percent of it, has been in the private sector," McDonnell said.

We wondered if the governor’s statistic is correct.

Jeff Caldwell, a spokesman for McDonnell, backed up his boss by giving us a spreadsheet culled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It detailed how many jobs have been created in government and the private sector since February 2010, the first full month of McDonnell’s administration.

We checked the underlying data on the BLS website to see if the numbers supported the governor’s statement.

In February 2010, there were 3,595,600 total jobs in Virginia. By May 2011, the latest month for which data was available, that rose to 3,663,000. That’s a net increase of 67,400 jobs.

The BLS numbers break out how many of those positions were attributed to federal, state and local government jobs, as well as how many were in the private sector.

In February 2010, there were 2,896,000 private-sector jobs, rising in May 2011 to 2,959,400. That’s an increase of 63,400 private sector positions, which is 94 percent of the Virginia’s net job growth during McDonnell’s term.

Of course, many private sector jobs in Virginia are indirectly funded by the federal government. Gary Steinberg, a BLS spokesman, said his agency doesn’t tally how many private jobs are attributable government contracts. But government contracts certainly provide a boost to Virginia’s economy.

Companies in Fairfax County alone received $22.6 billion in federal contracts in fiscal year 2009, according to U.S. Census Bureu statistics cited by Alan A. Fogg, a spokesman for the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

Fogg noted in an e-mail that 26 companies listed in Washington Technology magazine’s 2011 list of the 100 largest government contractors are based in Fairfax or have their U.S. headquarters there.

A report by Stephen S. Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, found that in fiscal 2008, Department of Defense spending funded an estimated 268,200 full-time equivalent employees of federal contractors in Virginia.

Let’s review:

Asked about how much the federal government is boosting Virginia’s jobs picture, McDonnell countered that it’s the private sector that’s been driving the commonwealth’s job growth.

The governor said the private sector has accounted for about 90 percent of the state’s job growth and figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics back up his claim. Although many private sector jobs in Virginia are created through federal government contracts, there are no definitive statistics detailing the number.

We rate the governor’s claim True.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

CNBC’s Squawk Box Heads of State,July 13, 2011.

Bureau of Labor Statistics non-farm payroll survey for Virginia.

Bureau of Labor Statistics non-farm payroll survey for the U.S.

E-mail from Jeff Caldwell, spokesman for Gov. Bob McDonnell, July 13, 2011.

Interview with Randy Marcus, chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, July 14, 2011.

Interview with Gary Steinberg, Bureau of Labor Statistics spokesman, July 14, 2011.

John L. Knapp, senior economist at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, July 14, 2011.

E-mail from Alan Fogg, spokesman for the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority,  July 15, 2011.

George Mason University report, "The economic and fiscal impacts of DoD spending on the Commonwealth of Virginia in FY 2008," November, 2009.

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