Taking the jobs-claim challenge

A recent job fair in Richmond drew a large crowd.
A recent job fair in Richmond drew a large crowd.

Let the reader beware.

That’s our advice when it comes to assessing politicians’ claims about job creation. We’ve noted many times that employment ebbs and flows with economic trends over which presidents, governors and legislators have little short-term control.

We’ve been told that by many conservative and liberal economists. It’s the one thing they seem to agree on.

We were taken to task on this point and others last week by Paul Goldman, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party and political consultant best known for helping Doug Wilder get elected governor in 1990.

At issue is a fact check we ran Saturday on Terry McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee who is exploring a 2013 run for Virginia governor. McAuliffe said Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s job-creation effort has not kept pace with population growth in Virginia.

We rated McAuliffe’s statement True. We noted that the same could be said of the jobs record of McDonnell’s predecessor, Democrat Tim Kaine. And we pointed out that other statistics show Virginia in a more favorable light over last decade. For example, the Old Dominion has consistently maintained one of the lowest unemployment rates among states.

Goldman, in a blog post, accused us of "entering the zone of a GOP campaign consultant." He asked why we stopped at Kaine in measuring whether Virginia governors have been able to create jobs at a faster pace than population growth. "Why not go all the way back to former Governor Wilder or George Allen, or Benjamin Franklin's first almanac?"

Well, we can’t go back to Franklin’s early days because the Bureau of Labor Statistics didn’t exist then. But we were able to go back to 1978 and look at BLS monthly figures that compare the working-age population in each state to the number of residents who are employed. Working-age population is the number of people 16 or older who are not in the military, incarcerated or in mental institutions.

We found that none of the last seven Virginia governors has created jobs fast enough to keep up with working-age population growth. Of the nine governors dating back to 1978, only Democrat Chuck Robb met the standard set forth by McAuliffe. Robb led the state from 1982 to 1986.

Here’s the rundown under the governors, according to rounded-off BLS numbers:

*McDonnell, Republican, 2010 to present -- working-age population growth, 86,000; job growth, 62,000.

*Kaine, Democrat, 2006-2010 -- working-age population growth, 288,000; job growth, 62,000.

*Mark Warner, Democrat, 2002-2006 -- working-age population growth, 341,000; job growth, 277,000.

*Jim Gilmore, Republican, 1998-2002 -- working-age population growth, 268,000; job growth, 194,000.

*George Allen, Republican, 1994-1998 -- working-age population growth, 256,000; job growth, 130,000.

*Doug Wilder, Democrat, 1990-1994 -- working-age population growth, 263,000; job growth, 195,000.

*Gerald Ballies, Democrat, 1986-1990 -- working-age population growth, 371,000, job growth; 269,000.

*Chuck Robb, Democrat, 1982-1986 -- working-age population growth, 265,000; job growth, 300,000.

*John Dalton, Republican, 1978-1982 -- working-age population growth, 276,000; job growth, 146,000.




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