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PolitiFact Florida on Jeb Saying Fl. Created More Jobs Than Any Other State

Former Governor Jeb Bush is taking to the airwaves with his first commercial, saying during his time in office, he he cut spending and Florida led the nation in creating new jobs. To check on those claims, WUSF's Steve Newborn checks in with PolitiFact Florida's Josh Gillin.

The presidential campaign is beginning to swirl, and one of Florida's favorite sons is stirring the mix with this political message:https://youtu.be/hkG3J7Wp0Qs 

But does PolitiFact Florida approve this message?

  • First up: Jeb says he cut taxes during his eight years in Tallahassee to the tune of $19 billion.
  • The commercial says "Bush cut spending the most" , compared to the other governors running for president. True or false?
  • And finally, Bush claims Florida created more jobs than any other state while he was governor.

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

The time frame Bush is using here is key, because he is relying on a distinct slice of jobs data. His campaign said they are measuring total job growth for the period between January 2000 and January 2007, or Bush’s last seven years as governor.

Let’s look at the way Bush’s people have sampled it: Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data for seasonally adjusted, nonfarm jobs, Florida indeed led the nation in total job creation from 2000-07, with 1.1 million new jobs. Second in that time span was California, with 1 million.

Bush took office on Jan. 5, 1999, however, so why leave off 1999? Because then the top two spots switch places. California created 1.48 million new jobs, while Florida made 1.33 million.

Just looking at 2000 to 2007 leaves out context, though. First, the economy  began to falter a month before Bush left office, and the state started losing positions a couple of months after that. By the end of 2007 Florida had shed 106,000 jobs, many of which were from the construction and real estate industries that had expanded during the housing bubble. The state eventually lost about 1 million, or almost the entire total of job expansion from Bush’s time as governor.

And as economists have told PolitiFact Florida time and time and time (and time) again, governors have limited impact on jobs numbers in the first place. Officials often enjoy or suffer from economies beyond their direct control, and Bush was no different, said David Cooper, an analyst for the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. And in this case, the end result isn’t something Bush should be too happy about.

"Florida’s job losses in the recession were far worse than the national average and far worse than all of its neighbors," Cooper said. "I’m not sure how much credit we should give to the governor for the state’s job growth during that time, and even if we could credit him, I’m not sure he should want it."

Also, the jobs during Bush’s time weren’t the greatest in the first place. Even the source Bush cites, a South Florida Sun-Sentinelwrap-up of Bush’s two terms thePost reprinted, said as much: "But while Florida led the nation in job creation, much of that was in low-paid service industry jobs that left many Floridians without health insurance and scrambling for affordable housing amid a real estate boom that helped fuel business-friendly tax breaks."

Former Sun-Sentinel reporter Linda Kleindienst, who now is editor of Tallahassee business magazine 850, told us she had used state numbers from the Office of Economic and Demographic Research. Her point was that while there were more jobs, many of them offered poor pay and often no benefits.

And finally, using total job numbers to paint a picture of success isn’t the best method to measure success. Florida is one of the largest states, so of course it would create a lot of jobs.

"Comparing totals completely lacks context — it doesn’t really tell you anything unless you’re comparing totals among states of roughly equally sized economies and labor markets," Cooper said.

A better way would be to measure Florida’s rate of job growth, as a percentage of total jobs. When we measure that, whether we start in January 1999 or 2000, Florida comes in fifth:


Our ruling

Bush said "Florida led the nation in job creation" while he was governor.

This is true if you parse the numbers the way his campaign did, looking only at total job growth over the last seven years of his eight-year tenure. But there are plenty of caveats to the talking point, including the prevalence of low-paying jobs that Bush policies didn’t necessarily create.  Many of those jobs evaporated after the housing bubble burst. A more level way to measure jobs would have been to look at the growth rate, which put Florida fifth in the country while Bush was in office.

There are many angles to explore in jobs data, and Bush’s view only tells part of the story. We rate his statement Half True.

Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7.

Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.