It’s the label every state chief executive is looking for right now: “jobs governor.” Forget about education, health care or taxes: the nation’s 50 governors all want to be known as the one who got his or her citizens back to the work the quickest.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is no exception. A news release put out by the governor's office after a Monday jobs and economy forum at the National Institute of Standards and Technology stated:
“This year, Maryland has created 36,100 new jobs, a rate that is twice the rate of job growth as the rest of the nation.”
Maryland may have a lower unemployment rate (7.4 percent), but is the Free State really adding jobs that quickly?
An O’Malley spokesman pointed us to the widely accepted numbers from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The most recent data available shows 2,530,700 Marylanders were employed in November. In December of last year, 2,494,600 state residents had jobs. That’s a gain of 31,600 jobs, and an increase of 1.47 percent.
So how does that compare to the national rate of job growth? Nationally, 138,888,000 people were employed in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s an increase from 137,792,000 last December. That’s an increase 0.8 percent.
So O'Malley is on target with his claim that Maryland's growth is more than double the national average.
Of course, there's also the question of how the question is framed. O'Malley's picking a good start date for himself. December 2009 had Maryland's highest unemployment rate in a decade. If he had started at the beginning of his term, Maryland would have a net job loss. Unemployment has doubled since he took office for the first time. So while 31,000 jobs sounds like a lot, the state's unemployment rate has only moved from 7.5 percent to 7.4 percent in that time frame.
And then there's the matter of whether or not O'Malley deserves credit for Maryland's job growth. During his successful run for re-election, Republican former governor Bob Ehrlich hammered him for over-regulating business and for taxing high-income earners (a group Ehrlich called "job creators"). Even at his own summit, a call to loosen regulations drew cheers from the crowd.
in the last legislative session, O'Malley sponsored a package of tax credits that gave employers $5,000 for every unemployed Marylander they hired. As of September, the program had few takers -- only 350 people had been hired. At the time, the governor and business leaders said businesses were simply unaware of the credit.
And while Maryland's unemployment rate is lower than the 9.8 percent national rate, and ranks 15th among all states, the 7.4 number is actually closer to the middle of the pack. its neighbors are also doing well: Virginia's unemployment rate is 6.8, while Delaware and Pennsylvania have 8.4 rates.
We can't ultimately decide how much credit O'Malley should get for Maryland's relatively strong beginning to the economic recovery, we can judge the truth of his statement: he got the number of jobs right, and was spot-on in saying Maryland's jobs picture was better than the national average. But it wasn't quite twice as high, as he stated. Overall, he was Mostly On Point.