With the 2012 campaign season in full swing, Seven Days has teamed up with VTDigger.org to create a fact-checker feature to test the “truthiness” of claims made by the candidates who want your vote this November. This week’s Fact Checker was written by Paul Heintz.
CLAIM: “We’ve added 7,500 new jobs in the state of Vermont since we got elected two years ago.”
— Gov. Peter Shumlin, campaign kickoff, September 10, 2012
FACTS: If you’ve spent any time listening to Gov. Peter Shumlin argue his case for a second term, you’ve heard the number 7,500. That’s how many jobs he says have been created in Vermont since he took office in January 2011.
Shumlin’s campaign says it arrived at that figure by comparing the Vermont Department of Labor’s tally of not-seasonally-adjusted, nonfarm jobs between January 2011 and June 2012. And, indeed, the number increased by 7,550 during that time frame — from 296,600 to 304,150 jobs.
But the story doesn’t end in June. In July, the number of nonfarm jobs dropped 4,950 to 299,200. And in August, it dipped another 900 to 298,300. Throughout Shumlin’s 21 months in office, therefore, the number of not-seasonally-adjusted, nonfarm jobs has increased by just 1,700.
Of course, there’s a reason economists seasonally adjust employment figures: They tend to fluctuate in a fairly predictable pattern throughout the year. For instance, last summer’s June-to-July drop-off was similar to this past one; in 2011, the June-to-July nonfarm employment figure dropped from 299,450 to 292,950 — the lowest jobs figure of Shumlin’s tenure.
In December 2011, that figure surged to 308,100 — the highest of his tenure.
When employment numbers are seasonally adjusted, Shumlin’s record looks a little better — though not quite as rosy as he claims. Between January 2011 and August 2012, the number of seasonally adjusted, nonfarm jobs increased by 4,700 — from 298,500 to 303,200.
Another way to judge Shumlin’s economic record is to look at unemployment figures. Between January 2011 and August 2012, the seasonally adjusted number of unemployed Vermonters fell from 21,600 (6 percent) to 19,000 (5.3 percent). While unemployment is lower now than when Shumlin took office, it has actually increased during each of the past three months, from a low of 16,400 (4.6 percent) in May.
SCORE: Gov. Shumlin’s claim that Vermont has added 7,500 jobs during his tenure may have been true in June, but it’s not true anymore. Using his own criteria, the correct number would be 1,700. If Shumlin wants to provide an accurate sense of job creation during his tenure, he should shift to the seasonally adjusted measure, which shows an increase of 4,700 nonfarm jobs during his tenure. By cherry-picking the best numbers available to him, Shumlin exaggerates Vermont’s job growth during the past 21 months. We rate his claim “Mostly False.”