Fox News displayed a graphic suggesting that unemployment was 0.8 percentage points lower in right-to-work states than the national average. This statistic is misleading, and a fairer comparison shows that Fox overstated the difference by a factor of four.
Fox Says Average Unemployment Is 0.8 Percentage Points Lower In Right-To-Work States
Fox: Right-To-Work States Have Average "Jobless Rate Of 7.7%, Compared To 8.5% Nationally." From the January 20 edition of Fox News' America Live:
[Fox News, America Live, 1/20/12]
Fox's Statistic Is Simply An Average Of Unemployment Rates In Right-To-Work States
Averaging Nov. 2011 Unemployment Rates In Right-To-Work States Yields A Rate Of 7.7 Percent. [Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12/20/11; National Right To Work, 1/23/11, calculation by Media Matters (RTW-1.xlsx)]
PolitiFact: "Fairest" Way To Compare Rates Is With A "Weighted Average"
PolitiFact: The "Fairest Way To Look At The Data" Is By Looking Jobless Rates "Weighted According To State Population." From PolitiFact:
On the Feb. 24, 2011, edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly said that the jobs picture is better in "right to work" states -- that is, states in which workers can refuse to pay dues or fees to the union that represents them in bargaining.
"The right-to-work states have much lower level of unemployment than the union states do," O'Reilly said while interviewing Caroline Heldman, a political scientist at Occidental College.
To test O'Reilly's claim, we turned to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, which is the official source for unemployment statistics in the United States. BLS' most recent state-by state data is for December 2010.
We consulted with Gary Burtless, a labor economist with the centrist-to-liberal Brookings Institution, about the fairest way to look at the data. We agreed that it was best to compare right-to-work and non-right-to-work states through data weighted according to state population. That way, California's unemployment rate would be given more weight than, say, Wyoming's. [PolitiFact.com, 2/24/11]
"Fairest" Calculation Shows Unemployment In Right-To-Work States Is Actually 0.2 Percentage Points Lower Than Nationwide
Weighting Jobless Rate For Right-To-Work States By Population Shows Their Rate In Nov. 2011 Was 8.5 Percent. This fairer calculation shows that the jobless rate in right-to-work states was 0.2 percentage points below the national average of 8.7 percent in November. [Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12/20/11, 1/20/11; Census Bureau, accessed 1/23/12 (.xls); National Right To Work, 1/23/11, calculation by Media Matters (RTW-1.xlsx)]