Conservative pundit Jim Geraghty is deflecting attention from Mitt Romney's weak job creation record as governor of Massachusetts, pointing to overall unemployment trends at the time. But that statistic, which one economist has argued is a "false indicator," doesn't change the fact that during Romney's tenure, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of all states in job creation.
Obama Campaign Criticizes Romney's Jobs Record As Massachusetts Governor
Reuters: Obama Campaign Ad Highlighted Romney "For Failing To Create Jobs As Massachusetts Governor." Reuters reported:
President Barack Obama's campaign attacked Republican rival Mitt Romney on Thursday for failing to create jobs as Massachusetts governor, calling it more evidence of a flawed economic approach that would be disastrous in the White House.
After weeks of criticizing Romney for plundering companies and slashing jobs while leading a private equity firm, Obama's campaign shifted its attacks to Romney's work in Massachusetts and said his experience did not qualify him to lead.
At a raucous appearance outside the Massachusetts statehouse, Obama strategist David Axelrod noted the state ranked 47th in job creation during Romney's four years as governor, while long-term state debt grew. He said Romney also broke a tax-cutting pledge by raising a range of fees that mostly hurt the middle class. [Reuters, 5/31/12]
Conservative Pundit Geraghty Touted MA Unemployment Rate To Obscure Romney's Jobs Record
National Review's Jim Geraghty: "Massachusetts's Unemployment Rate Changed From 5.6 Percent To 4.7 Percent." In a post at National Review Online, contributor Jim Geraghty wrote:
For the Obama campaign and Democrats, it's "Spotlight Romney as Governor" Day.
David Axelrod -- you know, the political strategist who routinely attends national security meetings -- will be in Boston, to hold a press conference in front of the State House in Boston to discuss "Mitt Romney's economic philosophy and his failed economic record in Massachusetts." Axelrod will warn that under Romney, Massachusetts's unemployment rate changed from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent, and that if elected, Romney would inflict the same pain and suffering to all of America. [National Review Online, 5/31/12]
But Under Romney, Job Growth In Massachusetts Was Among The Lowest In The Country
PolitiFact: "Massachusetts Was 47th Out Of 50 In The Percentage Of Job Growth." Examining Romney's jobs record as Massachusetts governor, PolitiFact wrote:
We ran the some numbers ourselves using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. We should note up front that there are a number of ways to slice the data, and the numbers change a bit depending on the parameters of your search. For example, do you look at all nonfarm workers (which includes government workers) or only private workers? We ran the numbers a few different ways, and while the numbers changed slightly, the ranking did not: Massachusetts was 47th out of 50 in the percentage of job growth.
If you look at all nonfarm workers, for example, Massachusetts went from 3,158,800 jobs to 3,198,500, an increase of 1.3 percent. Only Ohio, Michigan and Louisiana were worse. The national average was 5.3 percent.
At our request, the taxpayer-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, which does nonpartisan analysis of the state's financial and economic statistics, ran some numbers as well. They looked at figures from December 2002 (right before Romney took office) to December 2006, so the percentages were slightly different than ours, but they came to the same ranking for Massachusetts.
"Jobs grew, but they grew at an anemic rate compared to the rest of the country," said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.
The country was coming out of a recession when Romney took office. And it's likely, Widmer said, that Massachusetts emerged more slowly from that recession because its pre-recession numbers were disproportionally inflated by the technology bubble. A lot of those tech jobs never came back.
Widmer warned not to put to much stock in any governors' influence over their states' rate of job growth, or decline. The ability for governors to manage the state economy is vastly overrated, he said. States are tied to larger economic forces, he said, and governors often claim too much credit when things are going well and no blame when things are going poorly.
But when you have Romney running for president as a business person who says he created jobs for the private sector when he was governor, "In that context, the numbers from the DNC are relevant," Widmer said. "They are a relevant and accurate rebuttal." [PolitiFact, 6/22/11]
Reuters: "Romney Presided Over One Of The Puniest Rates Of Employment Growth ... At A Time [When] The Nation's Economy Was Booming." From an April 12, 2011, Reuters report:
Romney stressed his experience as head of private equity firm Bain Capital when he announced on Monday he was forming an exploratory committee on seeking the Republican 2012 nomination to challenge Obama, a Democrat.
He made a fortune wheeling and dealing in companies, some of which endured big job cuts as part of restructuring. Some ultimately went bankrupt.
[A]s Massachusetts governor from January 2003 to January 2007, Romney presided over one of the puniest rates of employment growth among the 50 U.S. states, at a time the nation's economy was booming.
Labor Department figures showed Massachusetts ranked 47th among the states in the rate of jobs growth in those four years -- ahead of only Ohio, Michigan and Louisiana. [Reuters, 4/12/11]
WSJ's Brett Arends: Mass. Job Growth "Badly Lagged Other High-Skill, High-Wage, Knowledge Economy States." According to a February 2010 MarketWatch article by Wall Street Journal columnist Brett Arends:
Romney, who may well be President Barack Obama's opponent in 2012, he had great time last week blaming the president for the current jobs shortage.
Speaking to the CPAC right-wing conference in Washington, D.C., Romney said that the dismal employment situation, a year after Obama took office, showed the president was a "failure" who was "going downhill faster than... Lindsey Vonn."
OK, let's take him at his word. Then what does that say about Romney?
The Republican contender was the governor of Massachusetts from January 2003 to January 2007. And during that time, according to the U.S. Labor Department, the state ranked 47th in the entire country in jobs growth. Fourth from last.
The only ones that did worse? Ohio, Michigan and Louisiana. In other words, two rustbelt states and another that lost its biggest city to a hurricane.
The Massachusetts jobs growth over that period, a pitiful 0.9%, badly lagged other high-skill, high-wage, knowledge economy states like New York (2.7%), California (4.7%) and North Carolina (7.6%).
The national average: More than 5%.
This was after four years. So far Obama has been in office for just one year. How was Romney's performance by his first anniversary?
Fiftieth out of fifty.
That's right. In Romney's first year in charge, Massachusetts ranked dead last in America in jobs growth. [MarketWatch, 2/23/10]
FactCheck.org: "Romney's Job Record Provides Little To Boast About." In January 2008, FactCheck.org examined Romney's claim that Massachusetts gained jobs "every single month" he was governor and concluded:
Payroll jobs in Massachusetts hit their low point in December 2003 at the end of Romney's first year in office. And the number of jobs declined in seven of the remaining 36 months of his term, as measured by total nonfarm employment, seasonally adjusted, which is the standard measure of payroll employment used by economists and journalists. The claim that jobs increased "every single month" is false.
Furthermore, Romney's job record provides little to boast about. By the end of his four years in office, Massachusetts had squeezed out a net gain in payroll jobs of just 1 percent, compared with job growth of 5.3 percent for the nation as a whole. [FactCheck.org, 1/11/08]
Reuters: Wages Also "Stagnated During Romney's Term." From a January 2008 Reuters report:
The former Massachusetts governor issued a statement on Sunday titled "creating jobs" that focuses on 57,600 jobs added to the Massachusetts economy during his single term as governor from 2003 to 2007.
But Northeastern University economist Andrew Sum, who has researched Romney's record, said the state lagged the U.S. average during that period in job creation, economic growth and wage increases.
"As a strict labor market economist looking at the record, Massachusetts did very poorly during the Romney years, he said. "On every measure you've got, the state was a substantial under-performer."
His supporters contend the state's job market was soft long before Romney's term, which ended in January last year, blaming a Democratic-controlled Legislature for the weakness. His spokesman, Kevin Madden, has asserted that Romney brought Massachusetts "back from the brink of financial disaster."
But Northeastern's Sum said that while jobs were created under Romney, the rate was the third-lowest in the nation after Hurricane Katrina-hit Louisiana and Michigan. At the same time, wages in the New England state stagnated during Romney's term.
The average weekly wage of Massachusetts workers, Sum said, rose by just a $1 between 2001 and 2006 after adjusting for inflation, while the state had the third-highest rate of population loss in the nation between July 2002 and July 2006.
Real output of goods and services -- a broad measure of economic performance -- grew 9 percent, below the 13 percent rate for the United States, he added. [Reuters, 1/20/08]
Economist: Massachusetts' Unemployment Rate Drop A "False Indicator"
Sum Contended That "Romney's Frequent Argument That Unemployment Dropped During His Tenure Is A False Indicator." According to The Boston Globe:
By the time Romney left the State House, Massachusetts had generated 24,400 net new jobs, according to an analysis by Moody's Economy.com, an independent research group. The state had only an 0.8 percent increase in employment, giving it the fourth-weakest rate of job growth among all states over that time.
"If you want to say you're about job creation, your record -- at least in our state -- would suggest that's just not true,'' said Andrew Sum, a professor at Northeastern University who has studied Romney's economic record. "That time period was a very weak time period for the state.
"I'm not blaming everything on him, but he didn't turn anything around,'' he added.
Sum did a study that showed that 14 percent of the state's manufacturing jobs were lost during Romney's four years, along with declines in payroll and labor force. In all indicators, Massachusetts was below the national average and was among the lowest-performing states in the country.
Sum also said Romney's frequent argument that unemployment dropped during his tenure is a false indicator. The unemployment rate was dropping nationwide, and much of the improvement in Massachusetts was due not to additional jobs but because people stopped looking for work or moved out of the state, he said. [The Boston Globe, 5/31/12]
Sum: "There Was Not One Measure Where The State Did Well Under His Term In Office." A Washington Post article reported that Sum argued that "the unemployment rate fell only because people were leaving the workforce in droves during Romney's term":
Romney's campaign says he curbed the state's unemployment problem.
"As governor he confronted an economy very similar to Obama's economy: high unemployment and no job creation," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement. "Under his leadership and economic reforms the Massachusetts unemployment rate went from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent and the state had a positive record of nearly 50,000 new jobs created."
But Andrew Sum, a professor of economics at Northeastern University, says the unemployment rate fell only because people were leaving the workforce in droves during Romney's term. Just one state had a bigger drop in its labor force during the same period, according to Sum -- that was Louisiana, which was hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"There was not one measure where the state did well under his term in office. We were below average and often near the bottom," said Sum, who is also the director of Northeastern's Center for Labor Market Studies.
Other states that never fully recovered from the 2001 downturn were Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, all industrial states that had lost scores of manufacturing jobs. Like those states, Massachusetts has been losing manufacturing jobs for more than a decade. And Romney was unable to stem the tide. At the end of 2002, just before he entered office, there were 338,000 manufacturing jobs in the state. By the time he left, there were 298,000, a drop of 12 percent, according to federal data.
"Under his administration, Massachusetts lost a huge number of blue-collar jobs that provided an opportunity for the middle class," said Sum, the Northeastern economist. [The Washington Post, 2/7/12]