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Vice President Mike Pence is in Philadelphia on Monday to speak about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and attend a fundraiser for U.S. Senate candidate Lou Barletta. Protesters are expected to greet him, as they did during an earlier visit this year.
Ahead of his trip, Pence published an opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer that declared the Trump administration’s policies are benefitting Pennsylvania: "Our agenda is delivering real results – and we’re just getting started."
Among the "real results" touted by Pence? That "the unemployment rate in the Philadelphia metro area is now at its lowest level ever recorded."
As jobs will likely be a major talking point during the midterm elections in Pennsylvania, we decided to check that statement.
Most experts agree that presidents have little control over the economy. In his piece, Pence uses the unemployment rate for the Philadelphia area to bolster his argument that the Trump administration’s policies are benefiting the city. But presidential actions do not necessarily have much of an impact on job numbers, which are often driven by broader factors, such as international economic conditions and technological change.
Experts also debate whether the unemployment rate is a meaningful indicator of the economy’s well-being. That probably rings true for the 48 percent of city residents living below the poverty line or for those who have stopped looking for work. But for the purposes of this fact-check, we stuck with the numbers.
"Based on data from the Philadelphia Metropolitan Division, the unemployment rate (4.7%) in May 2018 was the lowest ever recorded," the vice president’s spokesperson, Alyssa Farah, said via email when asked about the source of the claim.
Unemployment data comes from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Philadelphia, PA Metropolitan Division is a subset of the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD metropolitan statistical area and includes both Philadelphia and Delaware counties.
BLS releases both seasonally adjusted and non-seasonally adjusted Local Area Unemployment Statistics. The Pa. Department of Labor & Industry uses seasonally adjusted data, as it allows for month-to-month comparisons and accounts for trends like layoffs after the holiday season, analyst Jeff Newman told PolitiFact Pennsylvania.
For the Philadelphia, PA Metropolitan Division, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in May, according to BLS. That number is preliminary and will be finalized within a month, Newman said.
That 4.7 percent rate is the lowest number on record since January 1990. That’s as far back as BLS went when it reconstructed unemployment data based on MSA and metro division delineation changes that happened after the last census.
Pence’s claim would not be true using non-seasonally adjusted unemployment data. The unadjusted unemployment rate was 4.6 percent in May, according to BLS, and was lower in April 2000 (4.3 percent).
Ahead of his visit to Philadelphia, Vice President Mike Pence claimed in an opinion piece that the unemployment rate for the city’s metro area is the lowest on record.
That is true only if one looks at seasonally adjusted unemployment data for the Philadelphia, PA Metropolitan Division (which includes Delaware County) since 1990, which is important context. We rate this claim Mostly True.
Dataset: Seasonally Adjusted Metropolitan Area Estimates, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed July 23, 2018
Dataset: Local Area Unemployment Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed July 22 and 23, 2018
Phone interview: Jeff Newman, Pa. Department of Labor and Industry analyst, July 23, 2018
Email: Alyssa Farah, Office of the Vice President, July 22 and 23, 2018
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