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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

A Record Jobs Loss?

Republican Senate candidate Rob Portman is attacking his Democratic opponent, Lee Fisher, for the loss of jobs in Ohio. Portman’s ad claims that under Fisher’s watch — he’s lieutenant governor — the state lost "a record number" of jobs "to other states." But this supposed "record" is based on statistics that go back only to 2004.

Ohio’s employment picture is certainly an issue in this race, and in addition to his lieutenant governor duties, Fisher was also the director of the state’s Department of Development for two years. The ad, which was launched this week, shows Fisher saying he was "the lead point person in our administration saving and creating jobs." The TV spot asks: "What jobs?" And it points out that Ohio has lost "nearly 400,000 jobs" while Fisher has been in office. Close enough: The state has lost 382,000 since December 2006, the month before Fisher took office, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (see total nonfarm, seasonally adjusted data).

That’s not that surprising, considering the U.S. is still in the midst of a national recession, spurred by the collapse of major financial institutions and the bursting of the housing market bubble. Ohio isn’t the only state with bleak employment numbers.

But the Portman ad tries to make it sound even worse for Ohio, by claiming that among those lost jobs were "a record number going to other states." How does the campaign figure that? In recent years, the state Department of Jobs and Family Services has estimated the number of jobs that have moved to other states or overseas in its quarterly reports on mass layoff statistics. The Portman campaign tallied up the estimates for 2007 through the present (Fisher’s time in office) and compared that with the only other estimates available, from 2004 to 2006. Since the numbers for the more recent time period were greater, the campaign declared that to be "a record."

The Ohio department didn’t make these job movement estimates, compiled through employer surveys, prior to 2004. The reports say that because of the limited data "trend information is not available and analytical assessment is difficult." The very first report that included these "movement of work" stats even called the new data "experimental."

None of that information is given to viewers, even though references to "record" numbers normally cover a much longer trend line.

Besides, jobs going to other states are the least of Ohio’s worries. Of the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost since the beginning of 2007, the layoff reports show 5,200 moving to other states.