During Mitt Romney's term as Massachusetts governor, that state ranked as one of the worst in the nation in terms of job creation -- squeezing out a net jobs gain of 1 percent compared with the national average of 5.3 percent at the time. But ABC and NBC Sunday shows allowed Romney campaign surrogates to obscure that record using a new talking point that Romney ended his term with Massachusetts ranked in "the middle of the pack."
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FACT: Massachusetts Jobs Growth Underperformed National Economy During Romney's Entire Term
BLS: Massachusetts Lagged Behind The Rest Of The Country In Jobs Growth. This chart, from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis' FRED and using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows the jobs in Massachusetts and the nation as a whole compared with January 2003, the month Romney took office. The blue line represents Massachusetts while the red stands for the nation:
[Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 6/3/12]
FactCheck.org: MA "Squeezed Out A Net Gain In Payroll Jobs Of Just 1 Percent, Compared With Job Growth Of 5.3 Percent For The Nation." 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]
FACT: Massachusetts' "Puny" Job Growth "Badly Lagged" Similar States
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 Journalcolumnist 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]
SPIN: Romney Campaign Surrogates Argue Massachusetts Went From "51st" to "30th" in Job Creation
Ed Gillespie: MA Was "51st" In Job Creation When Romney Took Over, Moved Up To "30th" After Four Years. During an interview on Fox News Sunday, former Republican national Committee chairman Ed Gillespie argued that Massachusetts went from being ranked last in job creation to "number 30." For his part, host Chris Wallace disputed those numbers, noting that "[o]ver the four years, it was 47th. There's no question about that":
GILLESPIE: The first year, it was 50th in job -- when he took office, it was number 50 in job creation, actually 51 if you count the District of Columbia.
WALLACE: We'll check the numbers.
GILLESPIE: Go check it out, OK? And when he ended his term in office, his four years in office, it was number 30, so he moved it dramatically.
WALLACE: But, over -- wait, over the four years, it was 47th. There's no question about that.
GILLESPIE: When, if -- this is what they're doing, Chris. You take the first year which is a low base year when the governor came in and took office because it was 50th in job creation, out of all of the states, dead last, moved it to 30th by the fourth year, had a net job creation of around 40,000 jobs, and they were averaging out over the four years, so they're bringing down the gains of his fourth year in office which shows the real impact of his policies and diluting it with his first year in office when he came into office and it was 50th in job creation. [Fox Broadcast Co., Fox News Sunday, 6/3/12]
Three Other Romney Surrogates Used Same Talking Point. Neither NBC's David Gregory nor ABC's George Stephanopoulos challenged these claims:
- Ohio Gov. John Kasich: "First of all, he wasn't 47. When he took over, he was 51st, counting D.C., when he left, he was 30th in the country. He created tens of thousands of jobs and the unemployment went down." [NBC, Meet the Press, 6/3/12]
- Romney adviser Kevin Madden: "We were 50 -- as Governor Kasich alluded to before, 51st in job creation, and when he had left office, he had advanced the state to 30th, so he had advanced it 20 places on that particular list." [NBC, Meet the Press, 6/3/12]
- Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom: "On the jobs question, because this comes up repeatedly, that Massachusetts was 47 out of 50 in terms of job growth. Actually when Mitt Romney arrived, Massachusetts was an economic baskethouse. If you throw D.C. into the mix, we were 51 out of 51. By the time Mitt Romney left four years later, we were in the middle of the pack. We were 30th in the nation in terms of job growth." [ABC, This Week, 6/3/12]
Romney Campaign Surrogates Are Using Romney's Last Year In Office To Distract From Overall Performance
Boston Globe: In "Romney's Last Full Year In Office, Massachusetts Jobs Grew By 1.06 Percent, 32nd In The Nation." From the Boston Globe's Political Intelligence blog:
The claim that Massachusetts under Romney ranked 47th out of 50 states in job growth is true, and the Romney campaign has not disputed its accuracy. If the District of Columbia is included, Massachusetts's rank was 48th.
Over the four-year period 2003 to 2006, Massachusetts jobs grew by 1.26 percent, well behind the national median of 4.84 percent. In the previous four-year span 1999 to 2002, job growth in the Bay State was just 0.89 percent, but its national rank was 35th.
A comparison between the full-term job growth rankings of Romney and his predecessor, Jane Swift, supports Cutter's point. From one governor's four-year term to the next, Massachusetts's national ranking dropped 13 spots.
Yet, BLS data also reinforce Fehrnstrom's argument. In 2003, Romney's first year in office, the number of jobs in Massachusetts declined by 1.39 percent, ranking it "51 out of 51," as Fehrnstrom said. In 2006, Romney's last full year in office, Massachusetts jobs grew by 1.06 percent, 32nd in the nation. Over the course of Romney's tenure as governor, Massachusetts's annual job growth ranking improved by 19 spots. [Boston Globe, 6/3/12]
Conservative Media Previously Cited 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]
Economist: Massachusetts' Unemployment Rate Drop A "False Indicator." Economist Andrew Sum argued that "Romney's frequent argument that unemployment dropped during his tenure is a false indicator." He also stated that "the unemployment rate fell only because people were leaving the workforce in droves during Romney's term." [Media Matters, 5/31/12]