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In the presidential campaign, the TV ads have been a battle of numbers.
The latest come from President Barack Obama, who highlighted Mitt Romney’s job record in a advertisement airing in New Hampshire and around the country titled, "We’ve heard it all before."
"When Mitt Romney was governor, Massachusetts lost 40,000 manufacturing jobs, a rate twice the national average, and fell to 47th in job creation, fourth from the bottom," Obama claims.
PolitiFact has addressed both parts before and rated them both Half True.
In checking Obama’s claim about manufacturing jobs under Romney, PolitiFact National turned to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the government’s official source of employment data, and examined state-level, seasonally adjusted data for manufacturing jobs during Romney’s tenure -- from January 2003 to January 2007.
Over that period, Massachusetts manufacturing jobs declined from 336,000 to 298,200 -- a difference of 38,000 jobs. So It’s not 40,000, but it’s close.
As for the second part of the claim -- the rate of decrease -- Massachusetts manufacturing jobs fell by 11.3 percent over the four-year period. The drop for the nation was 5.8 percent. That means the Massachusetts decline was nearly twice that of the nation, as the ad claimed.
So the Obama campaign is right about the manufacturing jobs numbers.
But it's worth pointing out that the numbers before and after Romney’s term reveal that the manufacturing job loss under Romney (11.3 percent) was slower than it was in either the previous four-year period (16.7 percent) or the successive four-year period (15.1 percent). This weakens the Obama campaign’s argument.
As for the part about job creation, Obama adviser David Axelrod recently threw out the same "47th-in-job-creation" claim on CBS’ "Face the Nation" and scored a Half True on the Truth-O-Meter.
PolitiFact National used state-level statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, looking at figures for non-farm jobs, seasonally adjusted. Since the Massachusetts governor takes office in early January, PolitiFact used the data for December of each year as a baseline.
From December 2002 to December 2006, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 states (not including the District of Columbia) in job growth, calculated by using the number of jobs at the beginning and end of the period for each state to determine the percentage change and then ranking the states. Only Ohio, Louisiana and Michigan fared worse.
So, the numbers check out again.
But in rating claims like these, PolitiFact also interviews experts about how much the target of the attack deserves blame for the numbers. And quite often, experts say it's a stretch to blame a governor for the complex things that happen in a state economy.
"Presidents, governors, and mayors can have an impact on job creation during their terms in office," said Gary Burtless, an economist with the Brookings Institution. "Almost always, however, the impact is small in relation to the effects of events and trends over which elected officials have little control, especially in their first few years on the job. A recession that is underway or begins soon after a president or governor takes office is in no way the fault of the new officeholder.
"The flip side is that chief executives cannot claim much credit for a strong economic recovery that begins shortly before or after they take the oath of office. The conditions that made the recovery possible were already present when their term in office began. The executive’s policies may have speeded or slowed the recovery around the margins, but the conditions that caused the recovery to begin were already present before the oath of office was administered."
(PolitiFact has noted that Burtless contributed $750 to Obama’s campaign in 2011. However, in 2008 he provided advice on aspects of labor policy to the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and he has worked as a government economist and served on federal advisory panels under presidents of both parties.)
There are lots of ways to present jobs data. And the statistics can often be manipulated so that competing campaigns can make equal and opposite conclusions.
The Romney campaign also has put its own twist on jobs creation data, pointing to figures that show Massachusetts' percentage of job growth improving from 49th out of 50 during 2003 to 36th during 2006. The campaign has noted that Massachusetts added more than 47,000 jobs over the course of his administration--a gross number that fails to factor in job losses during Romney’s time as governor.
Obama used accurate figures for the number and rate of manufacturing job losses in Massachusetts under Romney. He also gives the correct ranking for Massachusetts’ job creation during Romney’s tenure. But Obama exaggerated Romney’s impact on the Bay State job market, an impact that experts stress is minor at best.
Also, it's important to note that the the manufacturing job loss under Romney (11.3 percent) was slower than it was in either the previous four-year period (16.7 percent) or the successive four-year period (15.1 percent). This weakens the Obama campaign’s argument.
So just as PolitiFact did with the individual claims, we rate this version Half True.
Obama 2012 Blog, "We’ve heard it all before," June 4, 2012.
PolitiFact, "David Axelrod repeats claim that Massachusetts under Mitt Romney ranked 47th in job growth," June 5, 2012.
PolitiFact, "Dems say under Gov. Mitt Romney, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 states in job creation," June 22, 2011.
PolitiFact, "Barack Obama ad says manufacturing jobs fared worse in Massachusetts under Romney," June 8, 2012.
Email exchange with Jason Kuruvilla, Office of Public Affairs for the U.S. Department of Labor, June 6, 2012.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, "State growth" table, showing job creation rate based on 4-year estimate in the Current Employment Survey, accessed June 6, 2012.
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