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In his budget address yesterday, Gov. Tom Corbett touted the state’s recovery under his administration as a success, opening his remarks with a series of statistics on job creation on his watch.
But the numbers he used actually show that Pennsylvania’s economic recovery has been significantly slower than the national trend and also compared to states of similar economic scale.
Jobs — how many people have them, how many people have lost them, and how many people have gotten new ones — is an issue at the heart of elections around the country, not least the re-election campaign of Corbett, whose poll numbers suggest vulnerability in this year’s November election.
In his budget speech, Corbett argued that while Pennsylvania lost jobs in the Great Recession, the state has, under his leadership, gained back most of those jobs.
Pointing out that unemployment is at a five-year low (from a historic high of 9.2%), Corbett added that “the Pew Research Center estimates that number [of jobs] to grow by another 76,000 this year alone.”
But to understand what the number of jobs “created” in a given year means in terms of the state’s recovery, you need to know how many jobs were lost in the same period of time, by what factor the overall population changed, and how those numbers stack up against state and national trends.
And when it comes to the latter, Pennsylvania’s record in the last few years is less than stellar.
The very poll Corbett cited, for starters (an estimate, it should be noted, of expected job creation rates in American states) placed Pennsylvania 41st of the U.S. as a projected job creator.
What’s more, Pennsylvania — despite a hydraulic fracturing boom that’s made the state the nation’s second-largest producer of natural gas — has consistently remained among the lowest job-producing states of its size for years.
Since 2010, when Corbett took office, Pennsylvania has had an average 5.6% job creation rate — roughly 20% below the national average, and dead last among the 10 largest state economies,of which Pennsylvania is ranked 6th,according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data compiled by AxisPhilly.
When compared with 2008, Pennsylvania ranks second-to-last on the list of job-creators, behind Illinois.
But even as some Americans find new jobs, others are still losing them, and comparing new employment against job losses — measuring, in other words, net job growth — shows a different picture of progress in America, and one in which Pennsylvania stands out even less.
Nationally, the country has seen an average net gain of 6.5% in private sector jobs since 2010, the year Corbett was elected governor of Pennsylvania. But Pennsylvania has seen new jobs emerge at less than half that rate, placing the state 8th among the top 10 U.S. economies in terms of net job creation since 2010, behind only Illinois and New Jersey.