“In the last 14 years, Texas has created almost one-third of all the new jobs in America.”

— Former Texas governor Rick Perry (R), Iowa Freedom Summit, Jan. 24, 2015

“During my entire tenure as governor, almost a third of all the jobs created in America were created in the state of Texas.”

— Perry, interview with The Washington Post and the Texas Tribune, Feb. 5, 2015 

Former Texas governor Rick Perry has often repeated this claim to tout his state’s economic accomplishments. He’s said it in at least three settings as of early February — in his last speech as governor, at the Iowa Freedom Summit and during an interview with our colleague Robert Costa.

It likely will come up again as Perry gears up for a 2016 presidential run, so we dug into it. Is Perry correct that almost one-third of all the new jobs in America since 2000 were created in Texas?

The Facts 

Perry specified net new job gains in previous iterations of this claim, such as one that ran in an advertisement in 2013 in the Austin American-Statesman. Perry did not clarify this in recent speeches, but his staff said Perry was still referring to the calculation of net new jobs.

They arrived at this figure by using Bureau of Labor Statistics data of the number of jobs created in Texas between 2000 and 2014, and dividing it by the number of new jobs created nationally during the same period. This data set uses payroll information from surveyed businesses, and Perry’s calculation does not include public sector jobs.

By his calculation, Perry is correct: Texas accounted for 31 percent of all net new jobs in America when Perry was governor.

But politicians can easily manipulate jobs numbers to paint the most dramatic numbers, and Perry’s calculation is the highest possible one using the two data sets. His spokesman did not respond when we asked why they chose this particular calculation. (To see how states’ employment numbers can rise and fall depending on the statistics and time periods that politicians choose, check out this interactive tool that Lori Williams, then at Tableau, made for The Fact Checker during Perry’s last run for president.)

There is a disconnect comparing the particular state and national employment data sets he used, because they use different sample sizes and measures of seasonal adjustments. The national estimate is independent of state estimates, and the BLS warns against aggregating state data or using state data to compare with national data.

Department of Labor Chief Economist Heidi Shierholz said Perry’s calculation makes conceptual sense, but the more comprehensive calculation is another measure that accounts for population growth. Using this calculation, which includes both private and public sector jobs, about a quarter of jobs in America came from Texas in 2000-2014.

If the state is seeing huge job growth and getting far more of its population to work, that’s a “much better scene,” Shierholz said. But despite being a “huge state,” Texas is “not necessarily … seeing a booming economy,” she said, noting that the employment-to-population ratio in Texas is still below what it was before the recession.

During Perry’s term as governor, the average national population growth rate was 16.5 percent, or 35 million. Texas’s population grew at a much higher rate: 31.2 percent, or 4.8 million people. Texas accounted for 13.5 percent of the population growth in America during those years.

Texas’s employment grew at a higher rate than nationally — by 24.5 percent. The national growth was 7.1 percent. So Texas made up a quarter of the jobs in America over 14 years, and it’s a disproportionate growth compared to its population growth or to other states. But when you consider that Texas also added 13.5 percent of the U.S. population over that time period, it puts the employment numbers in perspective.

Many unique factors affect Texas’s job growth. For example, Texas is not only one of the largest states, but it also has one of the largest immigrant populations. Texas’s immigrant population grew by nearly 20 percent between 2000 and 2013. The Migration Policy Institute’s analysis of Census data shows the foreign-born population in Texas grew from 2.9 million to 4.4 million. Immigrants who arrived during that time tend to be of working age, and they are an important factor in the state’s employment growth.

If Perry is aiming to take credit for the new jobs, it’s difficult to see how economic policy decisions by a governor would have contributed. The largest industry in Texas that saw job growth was service-providing jobs and professional and business services. Industries that are more likely to be affected by the decisions and influence of the state’s top executive, such as manufacturing and mining and logging (which includes the energy sector), grew by far less.

The Pinocchio Test

The Fact Checker has frequently urged readers to be wary about job-creation claims, either at the state or national level, as so much of what happens in an economy is beyond a politician’s control. The data are also subject to manipulation. So it’s almost an automatic Pinocchio when a politician starts spouting these claims.

Perry’s calculation of Texas creating one-third of all American jobs adds up — using his particular formula. But it is not an accurate or comprehensive measure of comparing employment growth on a national scale; his figure comes from the highest end of the calculation possible. Texas’s population grew during this time, including working-age immigrants. A more comprehensive measure that accounts for this population growth shows that about a quarter of new employment in America was created in Texas.

There are plenty of other ways to portray Texas’s job growth without using the one-third figure. One-quarter of American jobs is nothing to sneeze at. Dallas saw the largest job growth among large metropolitan areas in 2014. Texas ranks in the top five among states with the biggest percentage increases in jobs. Yet Perry continues to use a misleading figure — and thus receives Two Pinocchios.

Two Pinocchios


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