Ad Watch: Majority PAC makes underwhelming boast about Kaine

Majority PAC has been running this TV ad in Virginia since June 17.

PolitiFact Virginia is used to writing about political ads that make inflated claims.

But we’ve never dealt with a TV spot that boasts of an accomplishment so fundamentally ordinary that it makes us yawn.  

Until now.

The Majority PAC, a pro-Democratic Party advocacy group, is investing in Virginia’s U.S. Senate race this year. Its most recent ad rips at Republican George Allen’s record during his prior term in the Senate from 2001 to 2007 and lauds Democrat Tim Kaine’s service as governor from 2006 to 2010.

The narrator says that Kaine, among other things, "kept Virginia’s unemployment rate below the national average."

Kaine was governor during the Great Recession and Virginia, like every other state, experienced job losses. But was keeping the Old Dominion’s unemployment rate below the national average really an accomplishment for him?

We checked.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists monthly unemployment rates for every state since the start of 1976 . We compared Virginia’s seasonally adjusted, nonfarm rates to those of the United States.

During the 449 months for which data is available, Virginia’s unemployment has never risen above the national average -- or even come close to doing so.

Virginia, blessed by its proximity to Washington and its military installations, has consistently ranked in the Top 10 states when it comes to low unemployment.

Virginia’s average monthly unemployment rate, from January 1976 through May 2012, is 4.7 percent. The nation’s monthly average for that span is 6.5 percent -- or 1.8 percentage points higher than Virginia’s.

The U.S. unemployment rate closed to within 1 percentage point of Virginia’s only 25 times during the time we examined, the last time in September 1996.  The narrowest gap was in January 1991, when Virginia’s unemployment rate was 0.6 percentage points below the national average.

During Kaine’s term as governor, which included two good economic years and two bad ones, Virginia’s average monthly unemployment rate was 4.3 percent. The average national rate during his term was 6.2 percent -- or 1.9 percentage points above Virginia’s.

Economists have told us time and again that governors have a limited effect their state’s economy; they take too much credit for good times and receive too much blame for bad times.

So here’s what we can we take away from the Majority PAC’s claim:

Virginia had an elite state economy long before Kaine came to office and that position -- based largely on factors that are beyond a governor’s control -- continued throughout his term and afterwards.



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