Politics

Take this job data and shove it: Candidates spar over job-growth numbers

C.J. Ciaramella Contributor

Jobs, jobs, jobs. Every GOP candidate for president is running on his record, and his promise to create jobs.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who announced his race for the White House Saturday, has especially touted his state’s job performance creating jobs.

“I respect all the other candidates in the field, but there is no one that can stand toe-to-toe with us,” Perry told The Associated Press on his first full day of campaigning.

But is that true, or has one of the other candidates actually created more jobs as governor? The answer is not so simple.

One approach is to do a direct comparison of data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Among the recent governors running for president — Jon Huntsman of Utah, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Perry — Huntsman has the best job growth numbers during the two years in which all three candidates’ tenures overlapped.

Between January 2005 and January 2007, Utah added 107,843 jobs, an 8.9 percent increase. During the same period, Texas increased jobs four percent, and Massachusetts by only 2.2 percent. (RELATED: How Huntsman’s moderate views could help him in 2012)

Huntsman has knocked Romney, who claims to be the strongest candidate on the economy, for Massachusetts’ ranking 47th in terms of job growth, while Utah ranked No. 1.

However, even a comparison during the same time period tends to be an “apples and oranges” situation, since there are so many variables affecting the states — immigration, migration, types of industry, average education levels, etc.

But while comparisons between states may get fuzzy, the hard numbers on Texas since the recession began give some credence to Perry’s claim of a “Texas miracle.”

An analysis by the blog Political Math shows Texas has had some of the most robust economic growth — relative to the overall lackluster state of the union — of any state.

Since the recession started, Texas’s economy has grown the fastest, increasing jobs by 2.2 percent, and hourly wages in Texas have increased at the sixth fastest pace in the nation. (RELATED: Perry leads first GOP primary poll since Ames)

During Perry’s tenure overall — from January 2003 to January 2011 — job growth in Texas was 7.2 percent.

But there’s another former governor in the race who perhaps has a better overall job number than even Perry. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson had a job-growth rate of 11.6 percent between 1995 and 2003.

And Johnson — a staunch libertarian — said he had no role in that job growth besides staying out of the way.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Johnson wrote in a statement. “We are proud of this distinction. We had a 11.6 percent job growth that occurred during our two terms in office. But the headlines that accompanied that report — referring to governors, including me, as ‘job creators’ — were just wrong.”

“The fact is, I can unequivocally say that I did not create a single job while I was governor,” Johnson added. Instead, “we kept government in check, the budget balanced, and the path to growth clear of unnecessary regulatory obstacles.”

Of course, no matter how much credence there is to a governor’s claim of being a “job creator,” there’s little doubt voters will be hearing about it from the candidates for months to come.