Branstad’s ‘Fuzzy Math’ Uncovered: Deceptive Statistics Promoted by Administration Deserve Scrutiny

folder_openNews, Uncategorized

Newly uncovered document displays a statistic invented by the Branstad administration to falsely inflate jobs numbers

Des Moines, IA – Governor Branstad’s administration is engaged in a deceptive campaign to falsely inflate Iowa job growth numbers, according to a document uncovered by Progress Iowa. A fabricated statistic, called “Gross over-the-month Employment Gains” has been added to a spreadsheet produced by Iowa Workforce Development, beginning in February of 2011. The newly created category is not recognized by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the past, the Branstad administration has publicly promoted ‘gross jobs’ as opposed to ‘net jobs’ in order to claim progress toward a campaign promise to create 200,000 jobs. Now, the administration has invented an entirely new statistic, claiming only counting jobs gained, while not factoring in jobs lost.

“Governor Branstad needs to stop deceiving Iowans,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa. “Using his phony math, if I were hired three times and laid off three times in the same year, he would get to take credit for creating three jobs. Anyone with an elementary school education knows that’s not how math works. If the Governor had spent the last two years focused on helping working and middle class Iowans as opposed to offering up massive corporate tax giveaways, his administration wouldn’t have to cook the books to hide his broken campaign promises.”

Numbers recognized by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tell a very different story than the numbers invented by the Branstad Administration. From January 2011 through November 2012, “total nonfarm employment” grew by a net 18,700 jobs in Iowa, and “resident total employment” in Iowa fell by 7,000 jobs over the same period. Meanwhile, Branstad’s inflated and inaccurate “gross jobs” numbers show more than 97,000 jobs created during the same time period.

To see the discrepancy between the new statistic invented by the Branstad administration and the BLS recognized total nonfarm employment, click here or visit:

Progress Iowa is a statewide, non-partisan advocacy group made up of over 2,000 members promoting progressive values and working for a better and more just Iowa.


Background: Iowa Jobs Statistics

2012: Iowa Labor Force Summary
November 2012 Total Nonfarm Employment: 1,494,300
November 2012 Resident Total Employment: 1,560,500

2011: Iowa Labor Force Summary
January 2011 Total Nonfarm Employment: 1,475,600
January 2011 Resident Total Employment: 1,567,500

Background: ‘Gross Jobs’ vs. ‘Net Jobs’

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]

Background: Gov. Branstad’s track record of deceptive Jobs Statistics

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]