As they compete against one another for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman each claims to have the best gubernatorial track record on job creation. So which one is right?
That's the central question in a new Bloomberg Government analysis that compares the economic performance of the three candidates' home states — Massachusetts, Texas and Utah — during each man's time in office. The analysis measures each of the states against the rest of the nation, rather than against one another, so governors are "aren't penalized for being in office during a recession, or other fluctuations in the business cycle." It examines five factors: change in overall employment; change in employment as a share of population; change in public- versus private-sector employment; change in the unemployment rate; and change in wages earned.
Bloomberg's conclusion: It is Perry who has the strongest job creation claim. But the study is careful to note that no governor should take too much credit — or receive too much blame — for something that is largely out of his control.
Perry received the highest marks because Texas has dramatically outperformed the nation in overall employment, employment as a share of population and the change in its unemployment rate since December 2000, when he took office. Total employment in Texas has grown by 11.3 percent over the last 11 years, even as it has declined by 1 percent nationally. Employment as a share of population — considered a more accurate measure because it accounts for population growth — fell by 8.3 percent in Texas during that time, but that is significantly better than the 9.6-percent decline nationally. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, has grown by 102 percent in Texas on Perry's watch, but that is not nearly as much as the 133-percent increase that has plagued the nation as a whole. On all three factors, Texas did better than Massachusetts under Romney and Utah under Huntsman.
Not all of the study's findings will help Perry. The analysis finds, for example, that public-sector job growth under Perry was "nearly twice as high as in the private sector," while private-sector positions accounted for nearly all of the job growth in Massachusetts under Romney. Huntsman also oversaw rapid growth in the private sector until the national recession kicked in.
On wages, Huntsman got another lift: Utah nearly doubled the United States in the growth rate of average weekly wages, easily outperforming Massachusetts and Texas.
The Bloomberg study weighed in on the three candidates' claims because job creation has been such a prominent issue in the Republican presidential contest so far. But the study made clear that many factors play a role in the health of a state economy.
"The substantial body of academic research," the study says, "indicates that state policymakers have little effect on economic growth rates in their states, which tend to have more to do with industry mix, demographics, geography and even weather than who is in the governor's mansion."