“Florida led the nation in job creation.”

— Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R), speaking in a campaign ad, “I’ve delivered.”

Jeb Bush’s first television advertisement had a line that caught The Fact Checker’s attention, in part because of the source listed for this assertion on job creation: “The Washington Post, 1/7/07.”

Did The Washington Post in 2007 really confirm that Bush, as governor, led the nation in job creation? (We’ve previously checked another claim in the ad — that he cut taxes by $19 billion.)

The Facts

Regular readers know that The Fact Checker generally frowns on dubious job-creation boasts by politicians, especially governors. While a governor might have an impact on the margins, overall job trends at the state level often are influenced by nationwide economic trends.

Bush, for instance, was governor from January 1999 to January 2007, which meant he had the good luck to leave office just one month after months before the Great Recession officially started. Many of those jobs were quickly wiped out when Florida’s real-estate market collapsed. Indeed, just two months after Bush left office, Florida started shedding jobs — and nearly 1 million were gone within three years. (Updated to correct the fact that the recession started in December 2007, not 2006.)

The first thing we did was dig up the original article. It turns out it was not a Washington Post report but actually a long article that originally appeared in the Florida Sun-Sentinel, which The Post republished. Buried near the end of the article is this line:

“But while Florida led the nation in job creation, much of that was in low-paid service industry jobs that left many Floridians without health insurance and scrambling for affordable housing amid a real estate boom that helped fuel business-friendly tax breaks.”

Oops, that’s not so positive. For some reason, Bush did not mention those caveats in his campaign ad.

On top of that, the claim is not backed up by Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The best way to measure job creation is to look at the rate of job growth. After all, Florida is a big state, so in good years it should be creating many jobs.

But by that metric, Florida placed fifth overall, behind Nevada (34.6 percent gain in jobs from January 1999 to January 2007), Arizona (25.9 percent), Wyoming (23.7 percent) and Idaho (22.6 percent). Florida had a 19.8 percent gain, which sounds good, no doubt, but it’s not No. 1.

Even when total jobs are counted, Florida, with 1.33 million additional jobs, ranked second behind California, with 1.48 million new jobs, in the 1999-2007 time period.

Linda Kleindienst, who wrote the Sun-Sentinel article and is now editor of 850, a Florida business magazine, said that she was counting total jobs but notes the article was completed before Bush’s term was up, so the numbers were not up to date. “The real point of that paragraph was to say that despite the claims of job growth, much of it came in the form of jobs that carried poor pay and often no benefits,” she noted.

There is a hint that the campaign ad manipulated the data. As Bush delivers his voice-over in the ad, a headline appears: Florida “led the nation in job creation from 2000 to 2007.” That lops off the first year of Bush’s governorship, and by that standard, Florida just edges California in total jobs created. (But Florida still ranked fifth in rate of job growth, as you can see in this nifty graphic created by Tableau for The Fact Checker during the 2012 campaign.)

This just shows why these claims are so silly. If Bush is going to brag about his time in office, he can’t just eliminate inconvenient years.

A Bush spokesman who declined to be identified confirmed that the campaign was relying on the raw jobs gains in the last seven years of Bush’s term. “By that metric, we do lead the nation,” he said, adding that the ad was quoting the article that appeared in The Post. He did not explain why the campaign thought a seven-year period was relevant.

The Pinocchio Test

Bush makes this bogus claim himself, speaking directly to the camera. But the assertion is not supported by the official Labor Department data — and the article the campaign cites actually makes the salient point that these were mostly poor-paying jobs with few benefits. (The campaign apparently thought that by citing The Post, the jobs claim would have an aura of truth. But it was not a Post article.)

Campaigns simply shouldn’t cherry-pick data in service of factually suspect claims. In any case, when the recession arrived in full force just after Bush stepped down, these low-wage jobs were the first to go. So the gains touted by Bush were largely ephemeral.

We initially thought this might be worthy of Three Pinocchios, but the total package of mendacity tipped us to Four. Readers would be well advised to ignore job-creation claims by politicians.

Update: Tim Miller, communications director for Bush, vigorously disputed this rating and issued this statement in response to this fact check:

“Florida created more jobs while Jeb was governor than any state in the nation from 2000-2007 just as ad states. That is an indisputable fact.  Florida also created more jobs than any other state in the nation 2002, 2003, and 2004.”

We stand by our rating. Raw job totals are practically meaningless, especially for a big state like Florida, as what matters is the rate of job growth. The campaign cannot arbitrarily lop off a year in order to goose the statistics. While the ad attributes this claim to The Washington Post, the newspaper did not make this claim–and the article in question undercuts the point of the ad. These were mainly jobs that did not “deliver” for the recipients. That’s why we ultimately settled on Four Pinocchios.

Four Pinocchios

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