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West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice holds a service dog onstage after announcing on Jan. 7, 2019, that he will seek re-election in 2020. (AP) West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice holds a service dog onstage after announcing on Jan. 7, 2019, that he will seek re-election in 2020. (AP)

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice holds a service dog onstage after announcing on Jan. 7, 2019, that he will seek re-election in 2020. (AP)

By Matt Holleran February 4, 2019
By Cade Moisey February 4, 2019

Has unemployment not fallen under Gov. Jim Justice?

Unemployment has fallen across the country in recent years. But the West Virginia Democratic Party said in a recent tweet that it hasn’t fallen on Republican Gov. Jim Justice’s watch.

In a Jan. 9 tweet, the state party wrote, "FACT: Unemployment rate has not decreased since @WVGovernor took office. #wvpol #WVSOTS19"

Is that correct? We decided to check it out. (We reached out to a party representative but did not receive a response.)

Justice, elected as a Democrat in 2016, took office on Jan. 16, 2017. That month, the unemployment rate in West Virginia was 5.3 percent.

Justice became a Republican on Aug. 3, 2017. That month, the state unemployment rate stood at 5.2 percent.

And today? In the most recent month available, December 2018, the unemployment rate in West Virginia was 5.1 percent.

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Is that a dramatic drop? No. But unlike what the tweet says, it is a decline.

It’s worth noting a limitation in the data, said Brian Lego, a research assistant professor at West Virginia University. Because West Virginia’s population is small, he said, the margin of error for the survey used to track the unemployment rate is big enough to produce uncertainty about small changes in the data, like those seen during Justice’s tenure.

"The change is statistically insignificant," Lego said.

He added that regular revisions by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which collects the data, could produce small changes that affect the comparison.

Our ruling

The West Virginia Democratic Party tweeted, "FACT: Unemployment rate has not decreased since @WVGovernor took office."

The state unemployment rate did, in fact, decline from 5.3 percent to 5.1 percent on Justice’s watch. That said, it was an exceedingly narrow decline -- in fact, economists say that the margin of error for the survey in question leaves in doubt how big the decline was.

We rate the statement Mostly False.

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"FACT: Unemployment rate has not decreased since @WVGovernor took office."
a tweet
Wednesday, January 9, 2019

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Has unemployment not fallen under Gov. Jim Justice?

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