Linking jobs with politicians

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller appeared on MPR’s Midday today to talk about the budget woes at the Capitol.

When you talk economy, of course, you’re talking numbers and sometimes — most of the time, actually — numbers can be made to dance. I pointed out last month, for example, that the notion that Minnesota loses jobs because it’s not business-friendly, doesn’t stand up to the fact that the states that are described as business friendly have more rampant unemployment. (The number of industrial jobs per capita in Minnesota, for example, is among the highest in the nation)

“We don’t have the jobs we had when this governor took office,” Speaker Kelliher said, leaving the suggestion on the table that it’s because of the governor that we don’t.

If by “we don’t have the jobs” the speaker meant the number of jobs, that’s true, but not by much.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2,742,970 people in Minnesota have jobs right now. In January 2003, when Gov. Tim Pawlenty took office, there were 2,745,618 people working, a reduction of about 2,600 jobs. Thirty-six-thousand more people were working after a year in office, and 24,124 more jobs existed after his first term.

If the governor’s policies have reduced the number of jobs over the last seven years, couldn’t the same conclusion on this basis be made that the governor created jobs over the first four years of his time in office? And is either really accurate?

Unemployment over the period of Pawlenty’s term has risen 2.9%, almost a full percentage point below the rest of the United States. (There’s obviously a case to be made that simply having a job isn’t the same as having a good job, but it’s also true the median family income in Minnesota is 8th best in the nation, and personal income is 10th. In this decade, adjusted for inflation, the per-capita income of Minnesota is up about $1,000.)

The big question, of course, is what exactly is the cause-and-effect here? One side could easily say “we don’t have as many jobs under this governor,” the other side can say “we have a better jobs picture under this governor than the rest of the country.” Taken literally, both are correct. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they really are.

  • John

    Politicians cherry pick the facts that support their position. Nothing new there.

  • justacoolcat

    Is this the same arguement as using crime data?

    I’ve seen a lot of people take credit for the low murder/crime numbers in Mpls last year, but no one has stepped up to own this year’s problems.

  • bsimon

    The problem is that the real impact of government on jobs is likely measured decades later, not in realtime. The relatively strong economy that Minnesota has enjoyed over the last couple decades is a result of investing in schools 30 and 40 years ago. Smart, educated kids grow up to be entrepreneurs and engineers and other kinds of adults that are critical to maintaining a vibrant economy.