“Since June 2009, about 48 percent of all the jobs created in America were in Texas.”
-- Texas Governor Rick Perry during a June 14, 2011 cameo appearance on “Glenn Beck”
Gov. Rick Perry: “What Americans are looking for is someone who can get this country working again. And we put the model in place in the state of Texas. When you look at what we have done over the last decade, we created 1 million jobs in the state of Texas -- same time America lost 2.5 million. So I will suggest to you that Americans are focused on the right issue, and that is who on this stage can get America working, because we know for a fact that the resident of the White House cannot.”
Brian Williams: “But you know by now the counterargument to that is the number of low-wage jobs and the fact that unemployment is better in over half the states of the union than it is right now in Texas.”
Perry: “Well, the first part of that comment is incorrect, because 95 percent of all the jobs that we’ve created have been above minimum wage. So I’m proud of what we’ve done in the state of Texas.”
-- Exchange between Perry and moderator Brian Williams during GOP debate at Reagan Library, Sept. 7, 2011
Texas’s job-creation record may be the strongest hand Perry can play on the campaign trail because during and since the Great Recession the nation has endured negative and stagnant employment growth. The governor rarely makes an appearance these days without mentioning gaudy employment numbers for the Lone Star State.
We wondered whether Texas really put as many people to work as Perry claims it did. We also had to question whether one state -- albeit a very large one -- could really account for nearly half the new jobs created since the recession. And even if it did, what types of jobs did the state attract?
Texas experienced a net growth of 1.2 million jobs from January 2001 through September 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The United States as a whole lost 1.1 million jobs, so on the surface, at least, it appears Texas under Perry’s leadership more than doubled the figure for the national decline.
The governor’s campaign did not respond to our many requests to explain his jobs claims, so we connected the dots ourselves.
Perry mentioned June 2009 in his cameo because the National Bureau of Economic Research marked that date as the end of the last recession. And he appears to get his data from the president and chief executive of the the Federal Reserve’s Dallas branch, Richard W. Fisher, who delivered a speech comparing Texas to all 50 states, as well as those that have shown a net gain since the recession.
Fisher found that Texas accounted for 49.9 percent of net new jobs in the nation when including all states, but only 29.2 percent among the states that showed net growth. He used BLS data for his national figures, and findings from the Federal Reserve of Dallas for the Texas numbers, according to PolitiFact.
Perry clearly relied on the comparison with all 50 states rather than those that experienced net growth. But that method isn’t fair because it inflates Texas’s gains and gives the impression that the state accounted for a larger portion of U.S. job growth than it really did.
The Dallas Federal Reserve compared Texas and the other gainer states using only BLS data -- rather than half BLS data and half its own -- for the sake of consistency. The numbers showed that Texas generated 28.1 percent of the nation’s jobs.
No matter which way you slice it, Texas accounts for a disproportionately large number of new U.S. jobs. But those gains mean little outside the context of population, wages and benefits.
We wanted to know how the Lone Star State’s job market kept up with its population explosion, so we looked at BLS unemployment data.
Texas, it ends up, has the 24th highest unemployment rate in the U.S. at 8.5 percent. That’s greater than 7.4 percent for Utah, where Jon Huntsman governed, as well as 7.3 for Massachusetts, the state where Mitt Romney served as governor from 2003 to 2007. But it’s better than the national average of 9.1 percent.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, another GOP candidate, challenged Perry on his employment numbers during the Sept. 12 GOP debate in Tampa, saying the state gained a large portion of its new jobs through government employment.
Our colleagues at PolitiFact examined the issue in September, finding that government jobs represented 27 percent of all employment growth from January 2001 to July 2011, which at that time spanned Perry’s time in office.
The 27 percent covers federal, state and local workers; the gains in state jobs alone represented only 5 percent of the overall growth in Texas. The governor has very limited control over growth in federal and local governments.
Conclusion: taking away government employment -- the kind that Perry controls -- wouldn’t knock Texas from its perch. (In September, we found other claims that Paul made about Perry’s record also wanting.)
As for pay, Perry said 95 percent of the state’s workers earn more than minimum wage. But that number actually represents employees making at or above minimum wage. The percentage making more is 90.5, so the governor missed the mark.
Overall, 9.5 percent of Texans make minimum wage or below, versus six percent nationwide, according to the BLS. The state isn’t faring so well in that regard.
It’s worth noting that the number of Texans making at or below the federal minimum wage has skyrocketed since 2008, climbing from a little less than 5 percent that year to 9.5 percent in 2010.
The number fell for at least four years under George W. Bush, but it leveled off about one year after Perry, previously the lieutenant governor, took over for the newly elected 43rd president.
The percentage of low-wage earners dipped slightly from 2003 through 2006, but then blasted upward in 2008. The rate of 9.5 percent in 2010 more than tripled the low of 2006.
As for benefits, data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that Texas, with a quarter of its workers uninsured, had the highest percentage of uninsured residents from 2008 through 2010. Its mark of 25 percent was well above the national average of 15.8 percent.
A Kaiser Family Foundation database also showed the state had the third lowest percentage of residents with employer-based health insurance in 2009.
The Pinocchio Test
Perry used inaccurate numbers in his debate comments, but he didn’t mislead voters with his basic message that Texas accounts for a large portion of the net job growth in the U.S.
Still, the governor failed to tell the whole story about the quality of jobs in his state. He also relied on a flawed method for calculating Texas’s share of the nation’s job growth, and he overstated the percentage of Texans making more than minimum wage.
Overall, the governor’s employment gains are nothing to fawn over, since a large percentage of the jobs pay low wages and lack benefits. Texas boosted its employment numbers during some very lean years for the nation as a whole, but many of the new jobs fall on the low end of the desirability scale.
Perry earns two Pinocchios for presenting only favorable and exaggerated facts while not providing adequate context for his claims.
Check out our candidate Pinocchio Tracker