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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Bush Twists Florida’s Jobs Ranking

Jeb Bush uses some creative cherry-picking to back up the claim that as governor “we made Florida No. 1 in job creation.”

Here’s the statistic with proper caveats: Florida gained more net jobs than any other state, regardless of size, in three of the eight years Bush was governor. But when it comes to the rate of job growth — which factors in the size of the state’s job market – Florida ranked fifth over the entire eight years of Bush’s two terms.

In a speech announcing his presidential candidacy, Bush boasted — correctly — that Florida added 1.3 million net new jobs during his term as governor from Jan. 5, 1999, to Jan. 2, 2007. He also said, “We made Florida No. 1 in job creation.”

When governors tout job growth statistics in their state, we always advise caution, because there are so many ways to slice jobs data — not to mention that many economists say governors have relatively little influence over job gains or losses.

Any way you slice it, Florida’s job performance during Bush’s years as governor was strong, but it takes some creativity to get Florida to tops in the nation.

Bush’s campaign sent us a spreadsheet of Bureau of Labor Statistics data that shows Florida added more jobs than any other state in three of Bush’s eight years in office — 2002, 2003 and 2004. That sounds closer to a claim that Bush made in a speech at the New Hampshire Republican Party Leadership Summit on April 17, when he said that “for five out of those eight years, we led the nation in job growth.”

How did the campaign get from three to five years? It noted that, cumulatively, Florida added more jobs than any other state over the last five years of his governorship (even though Florida trailed California and Texas in 2005 and California, North Carolina and Texas in 2006). As we said, there are a lot of ways to slice the data.

On other occasions, such as in Michigan on May 28, Bush has said the number of new jobs created in Florida was “more than any state other than California, a state far bigger than us.” That aside about California’s relative size is an important one, as even very small percentage gains in heavily populated states like Florida, Texas and California can dwarf huge percentage gains in smaller states.

And so when you look at the rate of job growth — a standard metric to compare state job performance that takes into account the size of the state’s job market — Florida ranked fifth over the entirety of Bush’s term as governor, according to our analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Specifically, Florida, with 19.8 percent growth, trailed Nevada (34.6 percent), Arizona (25.9 percent), Wyoming (23.7 percent) and Idaho (22.6 percent).

— Robert Farley