Governor Branstad’s Fuzzy Math on Iowa Job Growth Deserves Serious Scrutiny

folder_openNews, Uncategorized

DES MOINES, IA — Iowa Workforce Development today will release their most recent total non-farm employment statistics. Regardless of the newly announced employment figures, Governor Branstad and his administration deserve serious scrutiny for their methods in compiling and promoting Iowa jobs numbers.

At issue is the Governor’s calculating ‘gross jobs’ as opposed to ‘net jobs’ and how his administration makes those calculations. Governor Branstad promised to create 200,000 jobs in 5 years, and according to his administration, they have already created 69,700 ‘gross jobs’. According to the Des Moines Register, ‘net jobs’ have grown by just 16,500 since the end of 2010. The difference between the two is simple: Governor Branstad ignores the job losses, and doesn’t factor them in his calculcation.

“Out of work Iowans need a job — not a Governor worried about saving his own job,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa. “With Governor Branstad’s history of cooking the books, we should not be surprised that he is skewing the figures to make up for his failed campaign promise. Iowans deserve honest leadership, and instead we’re getting falsified statistics.”

This week, local economists and media have examined the Governor’s lack of candor when accounting for Iowa job growth:

Iowa State University Economist Dave Swenson said the gross totals are not used for any official purpose that he is aware of. He borrowed a line from Lowell Junkins, a Democratic candidate for governor in 1986, to describe the situation. “When someone raises the “gross jobs” notion with me, I always say this: ‘If all I counted were my deposits into my checking account, I’d be a millionaire after awhile.  Honest accounting makes me declare, with high certainty and all sincerity, that I, on net, am merely a thousandaire,’” Swenson said. [Des Moines Register, 5/15/2012]

Using the gross numbers by themselves is problematic, said Peter Fisher, research director for the nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project. Using Branstad’s figures, the state could have a net loss of tens of thousands of jobs and the economy could tank, yet he could still claim progress on his job creation goal. “I can’t think of any justification of just focusing on gross job gains,” Fisher said. [Des Moines Register, 5/15/2012]

This week, Gov. Terry Branstad was grilled about Iowa’s progress toward his whopper of a campaign promise to create 200,000 jobs in five years. The governor contends he’s ahead of schedule, with nearly 70,000 jobs created. Trouble is, the governor is using “gross” instead of “net,” as in the net number of jobs created after subtracting jobs lost. Any economist will tell you that net is the thing when it comes to tracking job growth. Any first-grader will tell you 7 minus 5 is not 7. Between January 2011, when he took office, and March 2012, Iowa’s seasonally adjusted, non-farm employment has grown by a net 15,400 jobs, according to figures compiled by Iowa Workforce Development. [Cedar Rapids Gazette, 5/17/2012]

This isn’t the first time Governor Branstad has cooked the books to make his record on job growth appear more impressive than it is. Branstad has a history of inflating job growth and altering official reports for political gain:

Branstad: Lost Jobs Don’t Count Against Promise:The Des Moines Register reported in February 1984 that, “By his own count, the Republican governor said, 30,185 jobs were created last year, leaving him with 149,815 jobs still unfound. Democrats in the Legislature, however, count differently. Citing Job Service of Iowa figures, they claim Branstad closed out the year in the hole by about 17,000 jobs.”  [Des Moines Register, 2/7/1984]

Branstad Changed Jobs Report to Make It Appear They Created More Jobs:  The Des Moines Register reported in January 1984 that, “Iowa Development Commission Director Jack Bailey acknowledged Thursday that a commission report was altered at the request of a top aide to Gov. Terry Branstad to make it appear that the Branstad administration had brought more jobs to the state. … [Bailey] said he did not remember seeing a note from a former employee complaining that the change amounted to ‘cheating.’”  [Des Moines Register, 1/27/1984]