A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Reid Wrong on Jobs, Tea Party


On NBC’s "Meet the Press," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid exaggerated the latest job gains in the manufacturing sector and grossly minimized tea party victories in the 2010 midterm elections.

In the interview — which NBC taped a day before the Jan. 8 shooting of Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, Ariz. — Reid spoke about the latest employment numbers. The economy added 113,000 private sector jobs in the month of December, dropping the unemployment rate to 9.4 percent from 9.8 percent. But Reid went too far in crediting the manufacturing sector for the latest job gains.

Reid: The economy is far from being good. It’s better, but it’s far from being good. That’s why I think we have to focus like a laser on creating jobs. What do you need to do? We have to make sure that we continue to help the manufacturing base. These job numbers that came out this week, they say that most of the jobs in the private sector created were in the manufacturing sector. That’s good.

That is good, but not as good as Reid portrays. Most of the jobs in the private sector were not created in manufacturing.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that most of the jobs were created in the leisure and hospitality sector, which gained 47,000 jobs, and education and health services, which gained 44,000 jobs. Manufacturing jobs were up by only 10,000. "Manufacturing employment changed little over the month," the BLS said in a Jan. 7 press release.

Manufacturing jobs declined by 4,000 in October and 8,000 in November, so the December increase was welcome news. Since December 2009, the economy has added 136,000 manufacturing jobs — 10 percent of the 1.3 million private sector jobs created in that 12-month span. But again, there were larger job gains during that time in other sectors, including education and health services (422,000), professional and business services (366,000), and leisure and hospitality (240,000).

As for the tea party, the Nevada Democrat dismissed the victories of candidates affiliated with the movement.

Reid: I don’t think the tea party had the vigor and support that people thought it would. You know, a couple of them won, but most of them lost.

Reid, who defeated tea party-backed candidate Sharron Angle, is correct that "most of them lost." About two-thirds of all tea party-affiliated candidates lost, according to an NBC analysis. But he grossly exaggerates when he says only "a couple of them won."

Of those identified by NBC as being affiliated with the tea party, five of the 10 Senate candidates and 43 of the 130 House candidates won election. That’s a total of 48 winning tea party-backed candidates. (Our figures include House candidates Joe Walsh of Illinois, Ann Marie Buerkle of New York and Blake Farenthold of Texas — all of whom won, but whose races were listed as "undecided" by NBC.)