Faulty Jobs Numbers Fuel Governor LePage’s Premature Victory Lap

Today Governor LePage’s office released a report called Making Maine Prosperous, subtitled “The First 500 Days of Governor Paul LePage”. In that report, the unidentified authors from the Governor’s Office cite the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in claiming that “from January 2011 to March 2012, Maine’s private sector grew by 4,100 jobs.”

Interestingly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly jobs numbers for the state today (the April release provided the figures cited in the report). The jobs story is pretty much the same as it was last month and the month before. Maine’s total job growth since January 2011 has been weak.

Based on the dataset used in the report, Maine’s job growth has failed to keep pace with the performance of other states. Maine’s rate of job growth – in the public sector, private sector, or total – has trailed all but a handful of states that include Wisconsin and New Hampshire.  From January 2011 to April 2012, Maine ranks 45th in private sector job growth and 46th in total job growth. [Author’s note: These rankings are updated from an earlier version of this post, which incorrectly stated them as 44th and 45th, respectively.]

The irony of all this is that the LePage administration is citing a data series that its own Department of Labor said was inaccurate only a few months ago. The jobs numbers that are being cited in the Governor’s report are not reliable beyond the benchmarked data, which currently end in June, 2011.

MECEP appreciates the problems posed by this data series. Any real insight to be gained is in the longer-term trends, not the month-to-month fluctuations. What we know for sure is that Maine has lost over 25,000 nonfarm jobs since the beginning of the recession, and job growth has been virtually nonexistent since we hit bottom (see the chart of the employer-based payroll data below). Furthermore, Maine’s Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission predicts that we won’t return to pre-recession levels any time soon.

Touting jobs numbers that his own Labor Department calls flawed to prematurely declare victory on the Governor’s “first 500 days” isn’t governing. It’s running for reelection well over two years from election time.