Republican legislators say their big goal for the coming legislative session is to grow jobs by reducing taxes and rolling back regulations, among other things.
To underscore the need for the state Senate Republican's plan to grow jobs, Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel pointed out that the number of private sector jobs in Minnesota has fallen to 1998 levels.
"We have the same number of jobs in 2011 as we did in 1998," Michel said in an Oct. 24, 2011, press conference to announce his caucus's plan. "Since the recession hit in 2007, 2008, we have fallen back to 1998 private sector job levels."
Though Minnesota's employment took a hit with the recession, the state still has more jobs now than it did in 1998.
The average number of private sector jobs for the first three quarters of 2011 is about 2.242 million, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. That's using non-seasonally adjusted employment counts.
That's about 78,000 more jobs than the average of 2.164 million in the first three quarters of 1998. To put that figure in perspective, 78,000 jobs is roughly the same number of jobs 3M has worldwide.
Even looked at another way - a month-to-month comparison -- Minnesota has more jobs now than it did in 1998. A comparison of jobs figures that are seasonally adjusted yields the same result.
Chris Van Guilder, a spokesman for Michel, pushed back. He said that in the context of the millions of jobs the state supports, the difference of 78,000 jobs over more than a decade isn't significant enough to label his boss' statement false.
UPDATE: On Saturday, Oct. 29, Sen. Michel sent PoliGraph this graph as additional sourcing for his claim. The visual still shows that Minnesota has more jobs now than it did in 1998, but Michel said he relied on the graph because it makes his broader point that the state lost a significant number of jobs in recent years. The graph shows a sharp decline in jobs around the time of the recession; according to DEED's numbers, Minnesota has roughly the same number of jobs now as it did between 2003 and 2004.
Though Minnesota lost a lot of jobs as a result of the recession, Michel is incorrect that Minnesota has the same level of private sector employment now as it did in 1998.
PoliGraph rates this claim false.
Minnesota State Senate, clips from Oct. 24, 2011, press conference, accessed Oct. 28, 2011
Minnesota State Senate Republican Caucus, Senate Republican Caucus Announces Jobs Agenda for 2012 Legislative Session, Oct. 24, 2011
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Total Minnesota private sector employment 1990-2011, accessed Oct. 28, 2011
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Total Minnesota employment, seasonally adjusted 1990-2011, accessed Oct. 28, 2011
Senate GOP spokesman Michael Brodkorb took issue with PoliGraph's ruling, saying
"The point of Sen. Michel's argument was that the number of jobs that Minnesota has now versus 1998 is relatively the same. There is a difference of roughly 3 percent, and we feel that his point was still accurate and still drives home the point that there has been limited job growth over the last few years."
Indeed, the difference between 1998's jobs figures and today's jobs figures represents a 3.6 percent increase. To see how that growth stacks up, it's useful to look compare 1998's jobs numbers to 2007's - the highest jobs numbers for the state in the last 13 years.
In 2007, the state had an average of 2.357 million jobs - about 183,000 more than the 2.174 annual average for 1998. That represents an 8.4 percent increase.
So, even when Minnesota was adding lots of jobs, it was still only an 8.4 percent increase over 1998.
I hate to excuse Sen. Michel for being loose with the facts, but here goes.
He said "number" of jobs, and he's wrong on that score. But between 1998 and 2010, the state's population grew by 578,000. So if he'd said, "we have fewer jobs as a percent of the population than a decade ago," he'd have been correct — but still missing a bigger point.
Between 1997 and 2007, the state's "Private Industry GDP" had grown by nearly 60% (and it has grown again after a dip) while population has grown a bit over 10%.
So the real question to ask management consultant Michel: Is government policy to blame for the lack of jobs growth, when state GDP has performed so well?