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Rob Astorino, the county executive of New York’s Westchester County, is the expected Republican nominee for governor this fall, facing the uphill challenge of unseating Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has led several recent polls by about 30 points.
On July 25, 2014, Astorino appeared on Fox & Friends to tout his candidacy. Among other things, Astorino attacked his opponent’s economic record.
"This is an uphill, but winnable race in New York," Astorino said. "... And we are worst in the nation in economic recovery, in outlook, in business climate, highest taxes, most corruption. We had 400,000 New Yorkers leave our state in three and a half years. So it is bad in New York, but it can get better beginning in January with a new governor."
We decided to check whether Astorino was correct that New York is "worst in the nation in economic recovery."
We looked at four widely used economic measures to see whether New York was really a bottom-dweller. We didn’t find the state at the bottom on any of them.
New York ranked 17th in the nation in the percentage increase in jobs between June 2009 (the official end of the most recent recession) and June 2014 (the most recent month for which data is available), according to an Associated Press calculation of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Payroll employment in New York increased from 8.5 million to 9 million over that period -- a 6 percent jump, or exactly in line with the percentage for the United States as a whole.
Current unemployment rate
This statistic isn’t as favorable to New York, but the state isn’t dead last, either. Currently, New York’s unemployment rate is 6.6 percent, tied for the 36th best in the country, or roughly in the bottom quarter of states. That’s a bit worse than the national average of 6.1 percent.
Decrease in the unemployment rate
It’s much the same if you look at how far the state unemployment rate has fallen since June 2009. In New York, the unemployment rate has fallen by 1.9 percentage points, or tied for the 34th biggest drop among the 50 states over that period. Nationally, the drop in unemployment since June 2009 has been bigger than New York’s -- 3.4 percentage points for the nation as a whole.
Inflation-adjusted growth in gross domestic product
This statistic measures how much growth there’s been in a state’s total economic activity, accounting for inflation. New York’s GDP grew by 7 percent between June 2009 and June 2014, which ranked as the 30th biggest jump among the 50 states. This means that New York grew a bit more slowly than the nation as a whole over the same period; the national increase was about 9 percent.
If you put it all together, these figures suggest that New York’s bounceback from the Great Recession has been below average compared to the other 49 states. But we see no support for calling New York’s economic performance "worst in the nation." The weakest of the statistics we looked at shows New York in the bottom quarter of states, while the best of the four we checked shows New York ranking well above average.
When contacted by PolitiFact, a spokesman for Astorino's campaign said Astorino "misspoke." He had intended to say that upstate New York is ranked last in recovery -- not the whole state. There's certainly evidence that upstate New York is struggling -- for instance, Moody's has cited data that "indicate a stalling economic recovery in upstate New York"-- but given the available statistics, it's hard to do a national, apples-to-apples comparison to determine what region is faring the worst in the recovery.
For the record, New Mexico had the weakest increase in jobs in the nation as well as the smallest decline in the unemployment rate, while Rhode Island and Mississippi tied for the worst current unemployment rate and Maine and Connecticut saw the smallest increase in inflation-adjusted state GDP.
Astorino said that New York state is the "worst in the nation in economic recovery." His staff now acknowledges that the candidate misspoke. He did have a point that several commonly used statistics suggest that New York’s recovery has been weaker than average among the 50 states. But that’s a far cry from "worst in the nation." We rate his claim False.
Rob Astorino, interview on Fox & Friends, July 25, 2014 (CQ subscribers only)
Associated Press, "Ranking US states by job creation in past 5 years," July 18, 2014
Bureau of Economic Analysis, regional economic accounts search page, accessed July 25, 2014
Bureau of Economic Analysis, national economic accounts search page, accessed July 25, 2014
Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Unemployment Rates for States," accessed July 25, 2014
RealClearPolitics, polling data on New York governor’s race, accessed July 25, 2014
State of Politics blog, "Moody’s: ‘A Stalling Economy’ Upstate," July 28, 2014
Email interview with Tara Sinclair, George Washington University economist, July 25, 2014
Email interview with William O'Reilly, spokesman for Rob Astorino, July 28, 2014
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