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In the contest for the hearts and minds of voters, Democrats have been claiming that the economy is really improving and the Republicans have been saying they can make the anemic recovery even more robust.
During the online-only portion of the Aug. 28 Providence Journal-WPRI debate among Democrats David Cicilline and Anthony Gemma, both running in the 1st Congressional District, incumbent Cicilline was asked how he would tackle the massive national debt.
Cicilline said that in addition to cutting spending and closing loopholes in the tax system, the pace of job creation needs to increase.
"When President Obama took office, we were losing 700,000 jobs a month. Now we've had job growth, I think, for 24 consecutive months," he said.
We've heard a lot of chatter about the job numbers and whether they really indicate a recovery, so we decided to look further.
First, a look at what the employment situation was like when Obama took office.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in January 2009, when the president was sworn in, the country lost 818,000 jobs. (The numbers do not include farm workers and are adjusted for seasonal shifts in employment, but that's the standard way of calculating employment and unemployment rates.)
That's 17 percent more than the 700,000 jobs Cicilline cited.
(To put the numbers in perspective, the losses for the first three full months that Obama was in office averaged 738,000 per month. The average job loss for the last three full months of the Bush administration was 651,000.)
When it comes to the number of months in which the United States has had job growth, Cicilline's timeframe was also somewhat off.
BLS data show that the last time the United States lost jobs was in September 2010, when 27,000 jobs were lost.
That's 22 months ago, not 24.
How significant have the increases been?
Gary Burtless, a labor economist at the Brookings Institution told PolitiFact National in May that the economy needs to create 90,000 to 100,000 jobs each month just to keep pace with the number of people coming into the work force.
During 7 of those 22 months, including as recently as April, May and June of this year, job growth was below 100,000. In 8 of the 22 months, it was over 200,000.
When we asked his campaign for the source of Cicilline's statement, spokeswoman Nicole Kayner sent us a White House blog item from Aug. 3 reporting: "The economy has now added private sector jobs for 29 straight months." We confirmed that with the BLS database, but this is for non-government jobs, and Cicilline didn't make that distinction in his debate comment.
In the debate, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline said: "When President Obama took office, we were losing 700,000 jobs a month. Now we've had job growth, I think, for 24 consecutive months."
We want to note, as we repeatedly have, that even though there's been improvement in the job numbers during the Obama administration, a president's ability to influence the economy is severely limited.
As for Cicilline’s comment, he understated the job losses occurring when President Obama took office and, by the most commonly used measure, he overstated by two months the timespan of continued job growth. But his main point -- that there has been growth for nearly two years -- is sound.
Because the statement is "accurate but needs clarification or additional information," we rule it Mostly True.
(Get updates from PolitiFact Rhode Island on Twitter: @politifactri. To comment or offer your ruling, visit us on our PolitiFact Rhode Island Facebook page.)
WPRI.com, "Watch: Cicilline, Gemma bonus debate," Aug. 29, 2012
PolitiFact.com, "Mitt Romney says creating 500,000 net jobs a month is historically 'normal,'" Half True, May 7, 2012, accessed Aug. 29, 2012
BLS.gov, "Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National)," accessed Aug. 29, 2012
BLS.gov/webapps/legacy/cesbtab1.htm, "Establishment Data," accessted Aug. 29, 2012. To find other data, check the "Seasonally adjust box" on the "Total nonfarm" line, then click the "Retrieve Data" button. Selecting "More Formatting Options," then clicking on the "1-Month Net change" box, followed by the "Retrieve data" button shows the month-to-month changes.
Whitehouse.gov, "The Employment Situation in July," Aug. 3, 2012, accessed Aug. 29, 2012
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