Fact-checking Barack Obama's latest jobs claim
President Barack Obama made a rare appearance on Sunday television, telling CBS’ Bob Schieffer that Democrats lost last week’s midterm elections because his party failed to articulate the economic progress the country has made over the past six years.
"The message that I took from this election, and we've seen this in a number of elections, successive elections, is people want to see this city work. And they feel as if it's not working," Obama said in a taped interview from the Oval Office.
"The economy has improved significantly. There's no doubt about it," Obama said. "We had a jobs report for October that showed that once again over 200,000 jobs created. We've now created more than 10 million. The unemployment rate's come down faster than we could have anticipated. Just to give you some perspective, Bob, we've created more jobs in the United States than every other advanced economy combined since I came into office."
There’s no doubt that the economy has improved since Obama took office in 2009, but has the United States created more jobs than "every other advanced economy combined"?
In raw numbers, Obama is a bit off. His claim rates Half True.
The best way to compare employment totals across many nations is through the International Monetary Fund. The IMF classifies 36 countries as "advanced economies" -- and seven of those countries as "major advanced economies." We looked at total annual average employment from 2009 (Obama’s first year in office) through 2014.
According to the IMF, the American economy has added just short of 6 million jobs over the past six years, while the other 35 advanced economy nations have added slightly more -- about 6.28 million. The other G7 countries have added less than 5 million jobs. (You can see all the data here.)
So Obama’s claim falls short.
There are a few other caveats worth noting.
For starters, the United States is the most populous of these countries -- more than twice the population of Japan, which is the next most populous advanced economy (China, Russia and India do not make this list). So it’s logical that there will, in general, be higher U.S. job gains in absolute numbers compared to smaller nations.
Looking at the percentage growth rate instead of the absolute number of jobs helps to account for the population differences among these advanced nations.
By that measurement, the United States’ growth rate is lower than quite a few nations on this list, including: Australia, Austria, Canada, Estonia, Germany, Iceland, Israel, South Korea, Luxembourg, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Also, economist Tara Sinclair said that people shouldn’t necessarily credit Obama for all the jobs that have been added.
"Overall these sorts of comparisons mean little because employment outcomes have more to do with the economic environments more generally rather than specifically the president's policies," Sinclair said.
Elsewhere on Sunday, pundits turned to 2016 presidential politics.
On ABC’s This Week, Fox News host Greta Van Susteren made an interesting claim about one possible GOP contender -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Van Susteren said Christie would have some explaining to do about New Jersey’s economic record should he run.
"So far they've had seven credit downgrades since the time he's been governor," Van Susteren said.
The number is actually eight, though that’s split among three different credit rating agencies.
Van Susteren’s claim rates Mostly True.
A state’s credit rating is an expert, independent analysis of a state’s ability to meet its debt obligations, not unlike a regular person’s credit score. In New Jersey’s case, we’re talking about the state’s general obligation bond rating.
Generally, the better the rating, the lower the borrowing cost for the issuer.
The rating for New Jersey’s general obligation bonds has been downgraded eight times by the three major ratings agencies of Wall Street since 2011: Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s Rating Services and Fitch Ratings.
Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings have both decreased the state’s credit rating from AA, the third-highest level, gradually to A, the sixth-highest rating. The Moody’s system is slightly different but tracks similarly.
The frequent downgrades do not mean the state is falling to financial pieces. Yes, the state’s credit rating is the second-worst among states in the nation, behind only Illinois. But states generally have solid credit, and New Jersey’s is rated higher than most corporations and is nowhere near the junk-bond status of Detroit or Puerto Rico, said Lisa Washburn, managing director of independent research firm Municipal Market Advisors.
"An A rating isn’t a bad rating," Washburn said. "It’s still solidly within the investment grade. It’s just well below its peers."