PoliGraph: Rybak claim gets mixed review

As vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and a top surrogate for President Barack Obama, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has cut a national profile for himself this election cycle.

Rybak’s work landed him a spot during Tuesday night’s Democratic National Convention line-up in Charlotte, N.C., where he brought up two talking points Democrats regularly use to highlight Obama’s jobs record and the stimulus bill.

Under Obama, “we’ve had 29 straight months of private sector job growth. He put 400,000 teachers and education workers in our schools,” Rybak said.

Rybak has a hit and a miss.

The Evidence

“Twenty-nine straight months of private sector growth”

At the end of 2007, the private sector started shedding jobs, many in the housing and real estate industry. By February 2010 – a year into Obama’s administration – private sector jobs hit a low point.

But every month since then, more private sector jobs have been added, according to monthly employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – about 4.5 million jobs to be exact, many in the businesses services, health care and hospitality industries.

These numbers obscure losses in public sector job growth. And the private sector still needs to add about 4.5 million jobs to return to where it was prior to the recession.

Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, said that the stimulus has played a role in expanding private sector job growth, but there are other factors, too.

“There’s no single reason,” he said. “At a time like this, these things tend to reflect the recovering underlying economy from the damage of the bursting housing bubble and the great recession.”

For instance, as people start to consume products and services again, that creates demand, which, in turn, prompts employers to hire more people.

“As these wounds begin to heal, the natural growth in the economy, as the population grows, as people continue to need and want more goods and services, it starts to generate job growth again,” Bernstein said.

“400,000 teachers and education workers in our schools”

This part of Rybak’s statement has roots in two Obama initiatives: the stimulus bill and the Education Jobs Fund, both efforts that set aside billions to keep a total of 400,000 teachers employed in the face of layoffs stemming from the recession.

But here, PoliGraph found two holes. First, Rybak implies that these are newly created jobs. Rather, the funding was meant to both keep current teachers employed and hire new ones.

Further, Rybak’s estimates is on the high side. For instance, according to the Administration’s own website, the Education Jobs Fund, which set aside $10 billion to save 100,000 teaching jobs, has created or saved only 67,000.

The Verdict

Rybak is right that there have been 29 straight months of job growth under Obama’s administration, though it is important to point out that while the stimulus bill played a role, it’s also the natural progression of a recovering economy at play. This claim earns an accurate.

Rybak’s second statement that Obama put 400,000 teachers in our schools is harder to pin down. First, Obama’s education initiatives were largely meant to keep teachers employed, and hire new ones, so these jobs are not all new jobs. Further, it appears his estimate is on the high end.

Rybak’s second claim is somewhat misleading as a result.


Minnesota Public Radio News, Rybak defends Obama’s record, by Tom Scheck, Sept. 4, 2012

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Labor Statistics – National, accessed Sept. 5, 2012

Bureau of Labor Statistics,Current Employment Statistics Highlights – July 2012, Aug. 3 2012

Congressional Budget Office, Estimated Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on Employment and Economic Output from July 2011 Through September 2011, Nov. 2011

Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Chart Book: The Legacy of the Great Recession, accessed Sept. 5, 2012

The White House, Keeping America’s Women Moving Forward, April 2012

The White House, Education Blueprint: And Economy Built To Last, accessed Sept. 5, 2012

Education Jobs Fund.gov, State/Territory Totals, as Reported by Recipients, accessed Sept. 5, 2012

Interview, Jared Bernstein, senior fellow, The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Sept. 5, 2012

Email exchange, Patrick Rodenbush, spokesman, the Democratic National Committee, Sept. 5, 2012