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Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla, and chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee touted President Barack Obama’s record on the economy in an interview on the Nov. 13, 2011, edition of NBC’s Meet the Press,
The host, David Gregory, asked Wasserman Schultz whether she would concede that Americans aren’t any better off after nearly three years of Obama’s policies.
"Well, what I concede is that we do have a long way to go," she said. "But we absolutely have begun to turn things around, and we have made steady, but not quick enough, progress. I mean, before President Obama took office, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month, David. And now we've had 20 straight months of growth in the private sector. We've added 2.8 million jobs in the private sector alone. We've begun to add millions of jobs in manufacturing. We're starting to focus on making things in America again."
Let’s take her points one by one:
"Before President Obama took office, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month."
Strictly speaking, in November and December 2008 -- that is, the final full months before Obama took office -- the nation lost 802,000 and 619,000 jobs respectively. If you throw in January 2009, the month Obama took office, the nation lost 820,000 jobs. Rounding that off to 750,000 jobs per month seems in the ballpark.
"We've had 20 straight months of growth in the private sector."
Given the context from the rest of the quote, we’re assuming that Wasserman Schultz meant job growth. By that metric, she’s right.
"We've added 2.8 million jobs in the private sector."
If you start counting at the low point of the past few years -- February 2010 -- she’s right. Since that time, the number of private-sector jobs has risen by 2.77 million, or 2.8 million if you round up. (Over the same period, the number of government jobs has shrunk, weakening the overall jobs picture.)
But using other date ranges will produce lower -- even negative -- totals. Since the Obama presidency began in January 2009, the number of private-sector jobs has actually decreased by more than 1.4 million. Reasonable people can disagree about where the best starting point is for measuring a new president’s impact on the economy, but Wasserman Schultz’s number is the most positive one you can come up with.
We’ve added "millions of jobs in manufacturing."
This is the one claim where Wasserman Schultz is far, far off. The lowest point for manufacturing jobs was December 2009, almost a year into the Obama administration. Since then, the number of manufacturing jobs has rebounded, increasing by 303,000. That’s nothing to sneeze at -- but it’s far from even a million, much less the "millions" Wasserman Schultz claims.
And if you look at the numbers since the day Obama took office, manufacturing jobs have actually fallen by 800,000.
A final point: When we rate statements that seek to assign credit or blame to a politician, we also look at whether the politician in question was really responsible. As we’ve written before, presidents do have a role in job creation, but there are many other factors at play as well, so we don’t think it’s fair for Wasserman Schultz to give Obama all the credit for the gains she cited. (Just as it would be unfair to give him all the blame for losses.)
On Wasserman Schultz’s first two points, we have no major quibbles. On the third, the number is accurate according to one calculation, but it is cherry picked in a way that sheds the most favorable light on the president. And on the fourth -- manufacturing jobs -- Wasserman is flat-out wrong. We realize that she said "we've begun to add millions of jobs," suggesting more to come. But a rebound of 303,000 jobs is too few to support a claim that big. Meanwhile, we’re downgrading her for overselling Obama’s role in job creation. On balance, we rate her statement Half True.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Nov. 13, 2011
Bureau of Labor Statistics, main search page for employment statistics, accessed Sept. 20, 2011
Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National) -- 1-Month Net Change," accessed Nov. 15, 2011
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