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In an email blast challenging Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s latest TV ad, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney questions Perry’s proclaimed record creating jobs in the Lone Star State by hammering the number of unemployed Texans and changes in the Texas unemployment rate.
The Texas economy has been roaring since about 1990. Pia Orrenius, a senior economist for the Federal Reserve branch in Dallas, told us this year that some of the favorable economic factors in Texas are its booming Gulf ports and its surging trade with Mexico and China.
Orrenius also ranks among experts who have told us that job gains and losses in a state aren’t controlled by whoever is governor. Orrenius said in June: "Long before Rick Perry" became governor, "we were talking about the great Texas economy. There are so many exciting things about the Texas economy that precede any political flavor of the month."
In this story, we’re checking five claims in Romney’s multi-barreled Oct. 26, 2011, press release. It says that more than 1 million Texans are out of work and that the state’s unemployment rate has doubled on Perry’s watch and is at its highest level in nearly 25 years. Also, the Texas rate is higher than the rates in 27 states, the email says, and has escalated faster than the national rate during Barack Obama’s presidency.
1) Romney’s spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho, says in the press release that "more than a million workers in (Perry’s) state are out of a job."
Information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier helped us confirm that 1.04 million Texans were unemployed as of August 2011. There were slightly more unemployed Texans as of September, the bureau says.
2) From the Romney release: "The unemployment rate in Texas is 8.5 percent, more than twice as high as when Perry took office."
The unemployment rate has doubled during Perry’s governorship — going from 4.2 percent in December 2000 to 8.5 percent in September 2011, according to BLS data.
3) Romney’s release says the "unemployment rate in Texas is at a level not seen in nearly a quarter of a century."
That’s also correct, per the bureau: The state’s September unemployment rate, 8.5 percent, was the highest Texas had experienced since the 9.3 percent rate reached in November 1986, nearly 25 years before.
4) The email also says that in September, "27 states had a lower unemployment rate than Texas."
That’s correct, according to the bureau’s state-by-state breakdown of September unemployment rates.
5) The email blast also says that since Obama became president, in January 2009, the Texas "unemployment rate has grown nearly twice as fast as the national rate."
That claim was new fodder for the PolitiFact Texas Truth-O-Meter.
Romney says that between January 2009 and September 2011, the national unemployment rate grew by 16.7 percent, increasing from 7.8 percent to 9.1 percent. Over the same period, the email says, the unemployment rate in Texas grew from 6.4 percent to 8.5 percent — a 32.8 percent increase. According to BLS data, the unemployment rate figures for both Texas and the nation are correct.
In a telephone interview, Cheryl Abbot, a BLS economist in Dallas, said the Texas unemployment rate has grown faster than the national one since January 2009. She suggested another way of measuring the changes; the U.S. rate rose 1.3 percentage points between January 2009 and September 2011 while the Texas rate increased 2.1 points. Then again, Abbot pointed out, the Texas’ unemployment rate remains below the national one.
Abbot also suggested that we look at the change in the raw number of unemployed workers in both the U.S. and Texas. We found that those numbers also largely support Romney’s point that unemployment has been growing faster in Texas since January 2009 than it has across the country. The number of unemployed people nationally rose 16.8 percent between January 2009 and September 2011 while the number in Texas increased 38 percent.
We took one other dip into the numbers, this time thinking about timing. During many fact-checks of jobs-related claims, we’ve learned that changing the time period in a comparison can result in big differences in the numbers.
Romney’s statement considers the increase in unemployment since Obama entered office in January 2009, about a year after the national recession began and after the U.S. and Texas jobless rates had both begun to climb. Unlike the Texas unemployment rate, though, the U.S. rate has been on a generally downward trend from its latest peak of 10.1 percent in October 2009.
Rolling back the starting month of Romney’s comparison to November 2007, the month before the recession began, narrowly causes the difference between Texas and the nation to flip. From November 2007 to September 2011, the U.S. unemployment rate rose 4.4 percentage points, an increase in the rate of 94 percent. In the period, the Texas unemployment rate increased by a smaller 4.1 percentage points, up 93 percent.
Choosing yet another time period, one starting in January 2006, the Texas performance seems even better, relative to the nation. Between January 2006 and September 2011, the U.S. unemployment rate rose faster than the Texas one: 4.4 percentage points vs. 3.4 points.
Each of Romney’s Texas-tied jobless claims is factually supported, yet his claims fuel a misleading impression — that the Texas governor has guided its economy into a ditch. To the contrary, the Texas economy has fared relatively well for more than 20 years.
Besides, it’s unreasonable to blame, or credit, a state’s governor for changes in unemployment rates. A single state official, even the governor, doesn’t hold sway over the many factors that drive the economy.
We rate Romney’s response to Perry’s ad as Half True.
Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, news release, "Perry’s new ad: the rest of the story," Oct. 26, 2011
PolitiFact Texas, fact check, "Mitt Romney campaign says Texas unemployment doubled under Rick Perry," Sept. 23, 2011
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, table, "civilian labor force and unemployment by state and selected area, seasonally adjusted," Oct. 21, 2011; chart, "unemployment rate for states," unemployment rate, seasonally adjusted, Texas, unemployment rate, seasonally adjusted, United States (accessed Oct. 26, 2011)
Telephone interview with Cheryl Abbot, regional economist, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Oct. 26, 2011
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