Christie

Unemployment rate under

Chris Christie

New Jersey, 2010 - 2016

after example
before example

How the candidates compare

The following chart summarizes the economic performance of the governors. A thumbs-up is awarded to governors whose states did better than comparable states on individual metrics, while a thumbs-down indicates those states that performed worse. A line reflects a neutral performance, while an asterisk indicates that there was not enough information to determine a statistically significant finding.

OVERPERFORMED
— NEUTRAL
UNDERPERFORMED
John Kasich
Ohio
Term: 2011 - 2015
Years in office: 4
Unemployment rate:
Employment-population ratio:

New business starts:

*

Income per person:
Income distribution:

State debt:

Jeb Bush
Florida
Term: 1999 - 2007
Years in office: 8
Unemployment rate:
Employment-population ratio:

New business starts:
Income per person:
Income distribution:
State debt:
Jim Gilmore
Virginia
Term: 1998 - 2002
Years in office: 4
Unemployment rate:
Employment-population ratio:

New business starts:

Income per person:

Income distribution:

State debt:

Martin O'Malley
Maryland
Term: 2007 - 2015
Years in office: 8
Unemployment rate:
Employment-population ratio:

New business starts:

Income per person:

Income distribution:

*

State debt:
George Pataki
New York
Term: 1995 - 2006
Years in office: 11
Unemployment rate:
Employment-population ratio:

New business starts:
Income per person:
Income distribution:
State debt:
Chris Christie
New Jersey
Term: 2010 - 2015
Years in office: 5
Unemployment rate:
Employment-population ratio:

New business starts:

*

Income per person:
Income distribution:

State debt:
Mike Huckabee
Arkansas
Term: 1996 - 2007
Years in office: 11
Unemployment rate:

Employment-population ratio:
New business starts:

Income per person:
Income distribution:
State debt:

How each governor did

Here are six benchmarks that show governors' economic success rates.

Unemployment rate

At the beginning of John Kasich’s term, unemployment in Ohio was at 9.2 percent. In 2014, it was a little over 5 percent. This is an impressive decline, even when you consider that the economy nationwide was improving during that time. In contrast under Chris Christie, New Jersey had trouble bringing down the unemployment rate after the financial crisis and the pain of joblessness lingered.

Jeb Bush governed Florida during a much flusher time. In the mid-2000s, the nation was booming. Even by comparison, though, Florida was particularly comfortable, enjoying an unemployment rate that dipped to 3.2 percent in 2006.

4 OVERPERFORMED
1 NEUTRAL
2 UNDERPERFORMED

His term

His state

Comparable states

Difference

Kasich

Unemployment rate

John Kasich

Ohio, 2011 - 2015

Bush

Unemployment rate

Jeb Bush

Florida, 1999 - 2007

Gilmore

Unemployment rate

Jim Gilmore

Virginia, 1998 - 2002

O'Malley

Unemployment rate

Martin O'Malley

Maryland, 2007 - 2015

Pataki

Unemployment rate

George Pataki

New York, 1995 - 2006

Christie

Unemployment rate

Chris Christie

New Jersey, 2010 - 2015

Huckabee

Unemployment rate

Mike Huckabee

Arkansas, 1996 - 2007

Employment-population ratio

The official unemployment rate is criticized because it doesn’t capture people who have given up looking for a job or who were forced into early retirement. Another way to look at the jobs picture is to measure the employment-population ratio, which is the fraction of everyone over 16 who has a job.

Here, there were no real standouts, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. The employment-population ratio is a difficult statistic to change because it reflects demographic forces as well as economic forces. The number changes when more people get jobs but also when older people leave the state or additional younger workers come in. It’s a measure of the overall vitality of the workforce.

Mike Huckabee is notable because the employment-population rate was remarkably low for most of his term; still, it ticked up as he was leaving office.

0 OVERPERFORMED
6 NEUTRAL
1 UNDERPERFORMED

His term

His state

Comparable states

Difference

Kasich

Employment-population ratio

John Kasich

Ohio, 2011 - 2015

Bush

Employment-population ratio

Jeb Bush

Florida, 1999 - 2007

Gilmore

Employment-population ratio

Jim Gilmore

Virginia, 1998 - 2002

O'Malley

Employment-population ratio

Martin O'Malley

Maryland, 2007 - 2015

Pataki

Employment-population ratio

George Pataki

New York, 1995 - 2006

Christie

Employment-population ratio

Chris Christie

New Jersey, 2010 - 2015

Huckabee

Employment-population ratio

Mike Huckabee

Arkansas, 1996 - 2007

New business starts

Governors love to talk about fostering entrepreneurialism and a business-friendly climate. Here, we used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the establishment entry rate — the percent of businesses or franchises that were created that year. This startup rate is a sign of how dynamic an economy is. It’s a measure of how easy it is to start a business and also how much demand there is for new businesses.

Again, Florida in the mid-2000s was an economic powerhouse, with the startup rate peaking at more than 16 percent. New York under George Pataki was also impressive, consistently outperforming its peers between 1995 and 2005. On the other hand, Jim Gilmore, Martin O’Malley and Mike Huckabee more or less met expectations. (There was not enough information to evaluate recent governors John Kasich, Lincoln Chafee and Chris Christie.)

2 OVERPERFORMED
3 NEUTRAL
0 UNDERPERFORMED

His term

His state

Comparable states

Difference

Bush

Business starts

Jeb Bush

Florida, 1999 - 2007

Gilmore

Business starts

Jim Gilmore

Virginia, 1998 - 2002

O'Malley

Business starts

Martin O'Malley

Maryland, 2007 - 2015

Pataki

Business starts

George Pataki

New York, 1995 - 2006

Huckabee

Business starts

Mike Huckabee

Arkansas, 1996 - 2007

Income per person

These charts show the average income in each state — that is, all the earnings, property income and government assistance received by state residents divided by the number of people.

John Kasich’s Ohio is the only state that beat its benchmark for average personal income. Ohioans were earning just slightly more in 2014 than at the beginning of Kasich’s term, but this becomes a significant difference taking into account the sluggish income growth in Ohio’s peer states.

In contrast, the average personal income went up sharply in Florida under Jeb Bush, but Florida was an underperformer. It didn’t keep up with peer states. The story is the same with Arkansas under Mike Huckabee and New York under George Pataki.

1 OVERPERFORMED
2 NEUTRAL
4 UNDERPERFORMED

His term

His state

Comparable states

Difference

Kasich

Income per person

John Kasich

Ohio, 2011 - 2015

Bush

Income per person

Jeb Bush

Florida, 1999 - 2007

Gilmore

Income per person

Jim Gilmore

Virginia, 1998 - 2002

O'Malley

Income per person

Martin O'Malley

Maryland, 2007 - 2015

Pataki

Income per person

George Pataki

New York, 1995 - 2006

Christie

Income per person

Chris Christie

New Jersey, 2010 - 2015

Huckabee

Income per person

Mike Huckabee

Arkansas, 1996 - 2007

Income distribution

None of the governors still in the presidential race saw inequality decline during their tenures, and a handful saw inequality get worse. The heady bubble years of the mid-2000s brought about rising inequality in Florida under Jeb Bush, in New York under George Pataki, and in Arkansas under Mike Huckabee.

These charts use estimates of the Gini coefficient calculated using IRS data by Professor Mark Frank of Sam Houston State University. The IRS records do not do a good job of capturing the incomes of the poorest, but they provide good information about the richest — and as economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez have shown, rising income inequality in the U.S. has largely been a phenomenon of the rich becoming super-rich.

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley is left off this list because Maryland was an outlier with no good comparable states. Maryland was notable for its particularly low levels of income inequality in this data.

0 OVERPERFORMED
3 NEUTRAL
3 UNDERPERFORMED

His term

His state

Comparable states

Difference

Kasich

Gini coefficient

John Kasich

Ohio, 2011 - 2015

Bush

Gini coefficient

Jeb Bush

Florida, 1999 - 2007

Gilmore

Gini coefficient

Jim Gilmore

Virginia, 1998 - 2002

Pataki

Gini coefficient

George Pataki

New York, 1995 - 2006

Christie

Gini coefficient

Chris Christie

New Jersey, 2010 - 2015

Huckabee

Gini coefficient

Mike Huckabee

Arkansas, 1996 - 2007

State government debt per resident

Politicians often talk about debt like it is an irredeemable sin, but states can have good reasons to borrow. Bonds are issued to build schools or fix roads. A good governor might have to borrow to fix problems that he inherited. A bad governor might keep debt low by skimping on necessary investments, forcing either his successor or local governments to fill in the gap.

In politics, though, debt has become shorthand for fiscal irresponsibility. By that measure, Florida under Jeb Bush and New York under George Pataki were top performers because state borrowing was kept low. These charts show state debt per person. True, both Bush and Pataki saw this number rise during their terms, but the debt in Florida and New York did not climb as fast as in their peer states.

2 OVERPERFORMED
3 NEUTRAL
2 UNDERPERFORMED

His term

His state

Comparable states

Difference

Kasich

State debt

John Kasich

Ohio, 2011 - 2015

Bush

State debt

Jeb Bush

Florida, 1999 - 2007

Gilmore

State debt

Jim Gilmore

Virginia, 1998 - 2002

O'Malley

State debt

Martin O'Malley

Maryland, 2007 - 2015

Pataki

State debt

George Pataki

New York, 1995 - 2006

Christie

State debt

Chris Christie

New Jersey, 2010 - 2015

Huckabee

State debt

Mike Huckabee

Arkansas, 1996 - 2007

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