With much fanfare the Cleveland Plain Dealer recently announced that it was teaming up with “PolitiFact” to fact-check common claims made about Ohio politics.  Because it was just too much to expect the building of newsroom reporters to actually independently verify the claims of politicians they cover anymore… or something.

So, recently, the Plain Dealer gave former Bush outsourcing czar the ol’ PolitiFact treatment over his claim that Ohio lost over 150,000 jobs since the stimulus was passed.

PolitiFact rated the statement as half-true… which of course, is how you politely avoid telling a politician that they’re 50% full of crap.

We found some problems with Portman’s claim and the campaign’s efforts to back it up:

  • As of June 30, Ohio had lost 127,900 jobs, from February 2009 through May 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Employment Statistics Survey. It collects data from employers. The figure, the latest available at the time, is seasonally adjusted to avoid artificial spikes and does not include farm jobs, parameters typically applied when computing net job losses.  
  • The latest numbers are lower than the ones cited by Portman. His campaign initially cited as its source Ohio’s Department of Jobs and Family Services and data derived from the Current Population Survey, which surveys households, not employers. But using this data actually moves Portman even farther out of the ballpark. It shows that Ohio lost 113,000 jobs since the stimulus bill passed.
  • Ohio has started to see net job gains in recent months, albeit small, contradicting a suggestion that the stimulus bill is causing job losses.

In other words, despite the direct assistance of Portman’s campaign, they could make his math work and his error could not even been dismissed charitably as nothing more than generous rounding.

Earlier this morning, I posted about how Ohio’s job growth has turnaround actually been quite remarkable this year.

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Politifact fails to note that half-way into the year, we’re poised to easily gain 100,000 jobs this year (assuming that private sector hiring stays the same, which indications are it’s actually accelerating.)  Politifact does not even discuss the studies and reports in Ohio showing how many jobs the stimulus created or saved.

Also, how many jobs did Ohio lose from December 2007 (when the recession is generally considered to have begun) until it was signed into law?

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, Ohio lost approximately 241,300 in nonfarm, seasonably adjusted jobs during the recession before the stimulus was signed into law.  That’s substantially more than Portman even alleges Ohio lost after the stimulus became law.

In other words, Ohio had lost more jobs before the stimulus than after.  That, too, would seem to be a rather significant fact to point out in considering the veracity of Portman’s statement.

The stimulus was intended to replace the evaporation of private spending during the recession until the growth business cycle could kick in and the economy started producing jobs again.

It was not, as Portman’s statement seems to imply, to prevent any and all further jobs losses in Ohio.  Ohio’s job data would seem to strongly indicate that the stimulus did what it was intended to do, mitigate the bleeding of jobs caused by the credit freeze and the massive drop in private economic spending until the free market recovered and private spending resumed at a level to create jobs again.

If the standard of the stimulus was that it would automatically stop all unemployment, then yes, Portman would be correct to point out that Ohio continued to lose jobs after the stimulus passed.

However, that was never the stated expectations for the stimulus.  Portman’s statement, when placed into the context of the job losses prior to stimulus, leaves you with this inescapable conclusion:

Ohio has lost substantially less jobs, and now shows consistent growth, in the sixteen months since the stimulus was enacted than in the fourteen months of the recession before the stimulus existed.

In other words, even using Rob Portman’s inflated job loss figures, it would appear that Ohio’s job statistics shows:

The stimulus worked in Ohio.

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