Did Corbett Sink Pa. from 7th to 49th in Job Creation? No.

Tom Corbett portrait loresDemocrats are hoping for a Pa. version of the famous 47th out of 50 talking point used against Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

The numbers look grim. According to data compiled by Arizona State University, Pennsylvania was 49th out of 50 states in job creation in March 2013. The same numbers show Pa. was 7th back in January 2011 when Tom Corbett took office.

Unimpeachable proof of the Governor’s failed economic policies?


Democratic Party and other critics of Tom Corbett have trumpeted the 7th-to-49th numbers in recent days. They’ve sent press releases, held two press conferences and compiled web videos. But the numbers are misleading.

“Governor Corbett has overseen a Pennsylvanian economy in decline,” said Pa. Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn. “The last economic report just further illustrates how disastrous Tom Corbett’s economy has been for the middle-class. Tom Corbett is more focused on giving tax breaks to corporations than he is on investing in education, lowering property taxes, and stemming rising tuition costs.”

The Governor rejected the Dems’ criticism in an interview with PAMatters.com.

“Other states were so far down that they grew – percentage-wise, in their area – fast. They had more ground to make up than we did,” he said.

He’s right.

For an explanation of the numbers, PoliticsPA went to the source.

Mark Price is a labor economist with the Keystone Research Center. The Dems’ ‘49th’ number originated when he mentioned it during an interview with Philadelphia Daily News columnist Will Bunch which published on April 22.

But Price says the ranking is not a useful measure of Corbett or his policies.

“We had a good recession, relatively speaking. We came out of it stronger. We had a really good first year, and then things drifted back to where Pennsylvania typically is,” Price said.

As a big, older, northern state, Pennsylvania is immune from the boom-and-bust cycles of many of the states that supercede it on the list. Price said Pennsylvania historically falls in the range of 30s and 40s in this ranking.

The reason we ranked 7th in Jan. 2011, he said, is because Pa. weathered the recession far better than other states. The state had added 83,500 jobs at a rate of 1.53% during the previous 12 months.

Price said there are specific problems with the numbers Democrats have chosen to use.

First off, comparing one month to another – in this case January to March – is apples to oranges. So Price said throw out the Dems’ Jan. 2011 figure and look at March 2011 (when Corbett still had had very little tangible impact on the economy).

From March 2010 to March 2011, Pa. ranked 13th and added 90,300 jobs at a rate of 1.63%.

From March 2012 to March 2013, Pa. ranked 49th and had a net loss of 1,800 jobs at a rate of -0.03%. That was second worst of all the states during that period, better only than Wyoming which lost 700 jobs at a rate of -0.25%.

That still looks bad – and it is. Pa. was one of just 2 states to suffer a net loss of jobs by that measure. But the comparison isn’t yet accurate.

Price says a 12-month moving average is more indicative than a simple month-to-month comparison. According the data for March 2013 Pa. was 45th in the nation, adding 32,000 jobs and growing by 0.56%. Those numbers paint a slightly better and more accurate picture of the state’s job market.

By the same measure, in March of 2011 Pa. ranked 6th in the nation. More importantly, the state had added 55,200 jobs and grown at 0.99%.

The state is not in negative territory as the Dems’ data suggest, but Pa. job growth has slowed down.

To boil it down: Pa. hasn’t dropped off a job creation cliff. Rather, the state has remained on a plateau. Meanwhile, the rest of the country has steadily been climbing the hill of recovery.

Likewise, as national unemployment has dipped, in Pa. it remains steady.

In March 2013, Pa. unemployment was 7.9% – identical to its rate in March 2011. The national unemployment rate fell from 8.9% to 7.6% in the same period.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment bumped above the national rate in September 2012 and has stayed there every month since. It’s the longest time since July 2001 that Pa. unemployment has been above the national rate for more than one month at a time.

Corbett and his administration say the number of jobs created is the metric by which they measure success. He’s repeatedly boasted helping to add 110,000 private sector jobs since he took office.

“When you measure rate, there are factors that weight it that have nothing to do with job growth,” said spokeswoman Kelli Roberts. “Hence why a simple volume measure is the correct way to judge.”

But that may not be the best way, either.

“If you ranked by number, you would end up with Pennsylvania always near the top because we’re a big state and we have a lot of jobs,” Price said.

And all this takes as a premise that Corbett actually could control the economy if he tried.

“The economy sucks, and that’s not all the Corbett administration’s fault. In fact, there’s very little that governors can do either good or bad to influence the pace of economic growth,” Price said.

Two areas where Price said Corbett might have made the economy marginally better: big infrastructure spending earlier in his term, and funding to prevent the layoffs of thousands of public sector employees – particularly in education.

In conclusion, there are plenty of ways Democrats can – and will – criticize Gov. Corbett’s economic record. After all, as the party notes in a recent web video Corbett said on the campaign trail that his goal in 2010 was to make Pa. the number one state in job creation.

But the 7th to 49th claim is not an accurate one.

19 Responses

  1. Just asking, but it seems unfair partisanship to blame Gov. Corbett for failing to produce more jobs in PA, while holding the president to a different standard.
    Under president Obama, millions of people have been forced out of the labor pool and monthly job creation of 100000 or so is seen as progress when the economy needs to create 250000 jobs/month to allow for a growing labor market.

    President Obama blames his failures on his predecessor after 6 years in office and gets a pass, yet Governor Corbett is held responsible for the consequences of the decisions made by Gov. Rendell.

    Governor Rendell chose to use one time stimulus money as annual revenue and Governor Corbett had to deal with the billion dollar shortfall in the education budget. Then Gov. Corbett gets blamed for a billion dollar cut.
    Just asking how this is anything but unfair partisan politics.

    Governor Corbett has experienced unfair partisan attacks from Democrats for not giving more money to local school districts, but Democrats fail to mention the decisions made under the Rendell administration that have caused millions of education dollars to go to the pension funds rather than classrooms.

    Specifically, throughout the administration of Governor Rendell, the state and local school districts paid a fraction of their actuarial obligation to the retirement funds. (This practice began prior to Gov. Rendell, but was continued by him.) Were less state money required by the pension funds, more state money would be available for local school districts.

    Just asking, but it seems Democrats out of power, misrepresent and blame Republicans for everything that can be criticized. When in power, Democrats raise taxes and blame others for their failures.

  2. Thank you for the opportunity to enjoy such a well-phrased application of creative “logic.” It is rare event when we are able to enjoy such satirical nonsense phrased so eloquently. A real treat.

  3. Thank you Mr. Price for clarifying the undeniable facts that were glossed over in Mr. Gibson’s article in an attempt to soften the blow to the Governor – The policies this Governor and his State Legislature are promoting do NOT have a positive impact on employment in Pennsylvania and job growth has suffered as result of those policies. Period.

  4. Let me provide some context for the quotes in this article on the Corbett administration’s record on job creation.

    First, make no mistake about it, policy decisions made by governors DO impact whether a state’s economy takes on more water, or bails successfully, as it rides the wave of the national economy. As noted in Mr. Gibson’s story, 20,000 people in public K-12 schools were laid off following deep state budget cuts in Pennsylvania. That, along with the failure to invest more in infrastructure, has hurt the state’s economy.

    In talking to Mr. Gibson, I did urge caution on drawing conclusions from small amounts of data (e.g., a single month), and favored looking for patterns that hold up over longer periods of time. What got lost in Mr. Gibson’s story is that even data over a full-year show job creation is in bad shape in Pennsylvania—ranking 45th as of the 12 months ending March 2013.

    I did add two further cautionary notes: state economic characteristics such as population growth and the extent of economic diversification, as well as the policies of the current governor, impact short-term job rankings; and national policies and the national economy are primary drivers of state economic performance.

    But let us not miss the forest for the trees. As the Keystone Research Center has shown, Pennsylvania’s job growth ranking has declined significantly since 2010, regardless of the exact time periods examined. The data clearly show that Pennsylvania’s job performance has been poor since Governor Corbett took office and that partly reflects the policies he has enacted.

    Mark Price
    Keystone Research Center

  5. Bob-
    Tom Corbett’s support for Pennsylvania’s number one TAX AVOIDER, the natural gas industry, is not what we would expect from Democrats.

    Corbett’s collusion with gas industry has deprived PA of needed tax/drilling-rights revenue for a natural resource.

  6. Sorry, you don’t get to blame Rendell – it’s all Tom’s baby now. Tom’s gas drilling buddies were supposed to put everybody to work, but now a lot of those so-called friends are either either going back to Texas and Oklahoma or moving on to North Dakota.

  7. Nice piece of work by Keegan Gibson of politicspa in following up on envious and clueless Will Bunch of Democratically owned Unionized Philadelphia Daily News. My mistake for the dunderheaded blunder of thinking for one split nanosecond that Democrats could be trusted with money, or the economy.

    Ed Rendell’s profiligacy is coming home to roost and Tom Corbett is doing the best that can be expected given the failed policies of Unionized Democrats and their Union Collaborators in the Republican Party.

    Tom Corbett’s support for Pennsylvania’s number one job creator, the natural gas industry, is not what we would expect from Democrats.

    Compliments to labor economistMark Price of union sponsored, liberal Keystone Research for his nonpartisan, professional economic analysis

    Posted at my Facebook page

  8. 8 years of the disaster Ed Randell is finally catching up to Pennsylvanians, Randell only doubled the income tax, doubled the fees to use the PA Turnpike, added loads of debt, all are finally creating havoc on jobs growth in PA, there is nothing Corbett can do to stop it now.

  9. Interesting stat that PA has had its worse performing job numbers under our last two Republican administrations: Ridge/Schweiker in 2001 and Corbett 2012 through the present.
    While the rest of the Country has been popping job creation-wise in a tough economy, Pennsylvania lags thanks to the Corbett/GOP economic policies.
    The ham-handed reduction of public sector jobs championed by the Governor and his cronies in the legislature have proven to be most damaging to Pennsylvania’s economy. Sacrificing those jobs for his tax breaks for the wealthy, relaxed regulation for big business and corporate welfare is just bad policy and legislating. The philosophy of austerity and cut the social safety net and education spending while we push handouts to “job creators” and lax regulation is bad policy .. and Corbett through his inability to stand up to those interests is an enabler, promoting those policies. We need a governor with strong, pro-Pennsylvania working families values, not one that is beholden to and is a puppet whose strings are pulled by outside interests like Norquist, Koch, ALEC, TEA Party extremists and lobbyists for energy companies.
    Corbett must go for PA to grow!

  10. Jeremy… Corbett laid off nobody in education. The individual school districts did that when they kept hiring while enrollments were declining and one time revenue injectments from the stimulus were ending. The fact the districts kept hiring as they were either plateauing or declining in enrollment was reckless on their part. Nobody hires more employees when their revenues are declining and demand for their product/service is declining as well.

  11. Finally, PAINDY1, someone else admits Corbett has this TEA Party Agenda. I have been saying that for two years. Corbett is TEA Party. Pennsylvanians will reject their first TEA Party Governor come November 2014.


  12. Corbett said today that one of the reason’s for higher unemployment is because Pennsylvanian’s can’t pass a pre employment drug screening.

    Nice way to talk about your constituents.

  13. Let’s get real. Governor Corbett’s priority was never job creation. His administration’s priority has been appeasing TEA PARTY factions of the GOP at all costs, avoiding any semblance of a tax increase. Corbett is surrounded by yes men ( the Knights of his Round Table) that are focused on their own economic development. ABC ABC

  14. The reason we ranked 7th in Jan. 2011, he said, is because Pa. weathered the recession far better than other states.

    Umm… Because we had a better governor leading up to then. 🙂

  15. Corbett laid off 14,000 in public education. Fracking in the northern teir is in a stage where the jobs are in a lull. So while this poll maybe mis-leading but there is some truth to the numbers.

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