Acknowledging complexity in economic and jobs data always runs a certain risk. I was reminded of that this week when I spoke with a reporter at PoliticsPA about Pennsylvania’s job growth during Governor Corbett’s administration. After spending an hour on the phone with the reporter laying out the data, the resulting story largely missed the forest for the trees.
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. In Pennsylvania, 20,000 people in public K-12 schools were laid off following deep state cuts to education funding. That, along with the state’s failure to invest more in infrastructure, has hurt Pennsylvania’s economy.
I often urge caution with reporters on drawing conclusions from small amounts of data (such as from a single month). A much better approach is to look for patterns that hold up over longer periods of time.
What got lost in the PoliticsPA story is that no matter how you slice the data, job creation in Pennsylvania is in bad shape.
Much of the debate this week has focused on Pennsylvania ranking 49th in job creation as of March 2013, second only to Wyoming. Even if you average job growth over a full year, Pennsylvania ranks 45th as of the 12 months ending March 2013. As John Baer of the Philadelphia Daily News noted in a column this week, Pennsylvania’s job growth rate by that measure is 0.6%, well below the national rate and that of our neighboring states.
It is important to remember that state economic characteristics such as population growth and the extent of economic diversification, in addition to the policies of the current governor, impact short-term job rankings. Additionally, 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.