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By Eric Stirgus March 5, 2012

Gwinnett leader's boast on employment mostly right

At the beginning of each year, Atlanta-area residents can count on colder weather, higher heating bills and politicians bragging about the counties they lead.

In Gwinnett, like most counties, Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash gave her State of the County address. Her speech was on Feb. 15. Like any other State of the County address, Nash spoke proudly of Gwinnett’s progress, including a list of achievements that sounded impressive.

PolitiFact Georgia wondered whether two of these claims, particularly with all the talk about jobs and unemployment, were correct.

"[E]mployment in Gwinnett is up more than 3 percent over last year, and unemployment is the lowest of the five core metro counties," Nash told an audience of county leaders and boosters.

First, we wondered which counties was Nash referring to in her speech. Her communications director, Joe Sorenson, said they are the counties with the five largest populations: Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett.

The Georgia Department of Labor keeps data that looks at employment and the unemployment rate in each one of the state’s 159 counties. In December 2011, the most recent month available before Nash’s speech, the unemployment rates were as follows in each county.

Clayton: 11.8
Fulton: 9.8
DeKalb: 9.7
Cobb: 8.5
Gwinnett: 8.4

We’ll note that Clayton’s labor force, at 133,243, is one-third to one-quarter of the size of the other counties. The others have labor forces that range from 372, 274 in Cobb to the highest, 485,690, in Fulton.

On that point, Nash was right.

As for employment growth in Gwinnett, we had a problem with Nash’s numbers. PolitiFact Georgia subtracted the number of people employed in Gwinnett in December 2010 from those in the workforce in December 2011. The increase was 2.2 percent by our count, not more than 3 percent as Nash said.

Sorenson said Nash’s speechwriters made a mistake in the final draft of her address. They initially wrote that employment had risen by 2.3 percent, but they transposed the numbers and it read 3.2 percent. (Sorenson and his staff compared employment between June 2011 and June 2010 to come up with 2.3 percent. We used different months.) The communications staff ultimately changed it in the speech to "more than 3 percent."

Nash’s staff was unaware of the error until contacted by PolitiFact Georgia.

"It’s one of those silly things that I hope doesn’t reflect on a really good chair," Sorenson said.

Nash’s first statement was accurate, but the second part was not because of the editing error. We rate her statement Mostly True.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

Gwinnett State of the County address

Email and telephone interview with Joe Sorenson, communications director, Gwinnett County, Feb. 24, 2012.

Georgia Department of Labor county-by-county employment statistics

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Gwinnett leader's boast on employment mostly right

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