Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Good news/bad news on new PA jobs numbers

The new monthly jobs count from the U.S. Labor Department is out and, as usual, gives both parties something to crow and growl about.

Good news/bad news on new PA jobs numbers

Okay, look, I know this can get old but it’s important.

The 2014 governor’s race features an incumbent whose reelection hopes hinge on not raising taxes and creating jobs.

As I’ve written before, job numbers come in different variations: net jobs, seasonally adjusted, private sector only, not seasonally adjusted, jobs reported by households, jobs reported by employers, and on and on.

With much to choose from it’s easy for Democrats to pick numbers low-balling total job count and growl about Corbett's incumbency; and it's easy for Gov. Corbett’s campaign to tout numbers that sound more positive and crow about growth.

To even the playing field, I’ll offer a monthly review of net jobs data reported by the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Earlier this month, I noted when Corbett said the state gained 116,000 jobs since he took office he was talking only about private-sector jobs. The state lost lots of government jobs so (as of May) the total job gain since January 2011 was 75,100.

But Corbett was more honest than Democrats. Their state party found a number saying we lost 9,200 jobs between April and May. Experts say month-to-month numbers can be misleading, that long-term counts are more meaningful. And a Labor Department spokesman says 9,200 (in a state with nearly 6 million jobs) is a number not statistically significant and would not move the unemployment rate, which is below the national average.

The latest state-by-state numbers (for June) were just released.

There’s good news and bad news for Corbett.

The good news is the total number of jobs since Corbett took office jumped from 75,100 to 94,300.

The bad news is that total is lower than the total for the same period in every one of the nation’s 15 most populous states (of which we are 6th), including neighbors New York (267,300 jobs); Ohio (197,700); and New Jersey (135,300).

I also checked BLS data on government jobs. This includes state, local and federal employees and public school teachers in each state.

Since Corbett took office, Pennsylvania lost 38,700 government jobs. Most states lost lots of government jobs. But among the 15 most populous states, only two (both larger) lost more: New York (46,000) and California (39,000).

And a few states -- New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts – actually added government jobs.

So those are current numbers. Now the debate can focus on (a) whether it’s better to create more private-sector jobs than overall jobs and (b) whether losing too many government jobs costs residents needed services.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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