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In his primary bid for Pennsylvania governor, Pittsburgh-area businessman and Republican candidate Paul Mango says the Commonwealth’s economy is stalled and lagging behind those in most states across the country.
"Today, we have higher unemployment and lower job growth than most," Mango says in a three-minute-long online campaign video that was released in May 2017.
Mango is one of three Republicans running in next month’s primary. Incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf will be on the November ballot.
While it’s accurate that Pennsylvania’s economy has not rebounded as quickly as some following the Great Recession, is it true that its unemployment is higher and job growth "lower than most"?
Mango’s campaign video was released in May 2017, the same month he formally declared his candidacy for governor.
At the time the ad was released, Pennsylvania’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.8 percent and higher than the rates in roughly 40 other states, according to data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national unemployment rate in May of 2017 was 4.3 percent.
The same holds true today. Per Bureau of Labor Statistics data for Feb. 2018, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate remained at 4.8 percent and higher than the unemployment rates of roughly 44 other states. The national rate was 4.1 percent last month.
That brings us to the subject of job growth in Pennsylvania. It’s true that the Commonwealth’s economy did not rebound as quickly as some others following the Great Recession.
But Antony Davies, an associate economics professor in Duquesne University’s Palumbo Donahue School of Business, said it’s also worth noting that Pennsylvania didn’t suffer as badly as many states during the recession, and therefore didn’t have as far to go in climbing out.
"In 2009, unemployment nationwide was around 10 percent," Davies said by phone. "In Pennsylvania at that same time, it was around 8.4 or 8.5. We haven't improved as much as the rest of the country, but we didn’t start off as bad either."
In his ad, Mango cites a 2016Philly.comarticle for his claim that Pennsylvania’s job growth remains unusually sluggish. That article says Pennsylvania job growth "has not been sufficient to keep up with the growth in the labor force."
Matt Beynon, a spokesman for Mango’s campaign, said the campaign relied on news reports but also substantiated the claim with source data put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"Using either total employment or non-farm employment, Pennsylvania is in the bottom half of all the states when it comes to job growth during the Wolf administration from Jan 2015-February 2018," Beynon said by email. "Additionally, it is also true that total employment in Pennsylvania has dropped each month now over the last ten months, as Pennsylvania’s economy continues to fall further behind other states."
Frank Gamrat, a senior research associate with the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, a Pittsburgh-based conservative think tank, said Pennsylvania actually hasn't had a decrease to its private jobs count since May of 2010 but showed slower private employment gains than the nation did as a whole between 2016 and 2017. (Again, Mango’s ad was released in May of 2017.)
And jobs continue to be added here.
In February, the Current Employment Statistics (CES) monthly payroll survey reported 10,400 jobs were added in Pennsylvania and ranks that ahead of 37 other states and the District of Columbia. These same figures were cited in a release from the office of U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, a Democrat from New Mexico and ranking member of the Senate’s Joint Economic Committee, which said Pennsylvania added 82,800 public and private sector jobs since February of last year, more than 43 other states in that time.
Additionally, the Economic Policy Institute in March reported that the number of jobs added in Pennsylvania in the last 12 months is on par with the growth seen in most other states.
Mango is right that Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate remains higher than the rates of most other states, according to federal data. It’s also true that Pennsylvania job growth has generally lagged behind the national rate — although that appears to be correcting some.
But his claim that Pennsylvania has lower job growth "than most" gives the impression that most states are seeing stronger job creation. The national rate and individual state rates are not the same thing. The national rate is skewed by states like California with larger populations and larger workforces than most, Davies said.
It’s also important to note that some states with greater post-recession job growth suffered greater recession-era job losses than Pennsylvania, as Davies also pointed out.
We rate this claim Mostly True.
Campaign ad, Paul Mango for Governor, "Why I’m running,"May 2017
Phone interview, Dr. Antony Davies, associate economics professor in Duquesne University’s Palumbo Donahue School of Business, April 4, 2018
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Unemployment Rates for States, Seasonally Adjusted, March 23, 2018
Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Local area unemployment map statistics map,"Feb. 2018
Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Current Employment Statistics - CES (National)"
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, Joint Economic Committee, "Economic snapshots of the states," March 26, 2018
Email interview, Frank Gamrat, Senior Research Associate, Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, April 4, 2018
Email interview, Matt Beynon, spokesperson, Paul Mango for Governor campaign, April 4, 2018
News article, Philly.com, "Job growth stagnating in Pennsylvania, New Jersey as unemployment inches up," Aug. 19, 2016
Blog post, Economic Policy Institute, "State Jobs Picture," March 23, 2018
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