Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign whipped out a new number over the weekend to dispute federal government data that ranked Massachusetts 47th in job creation during Romney’s time as governor there. Three campaign surrogates used the Sunday morning news circuit to claim that the state was actually 30th in job growth in Romney’s final year in office.
Of course, moving the state to 30th would still mean it was in the bottom half of the nation, a fact that would seem to fit assertions from local experts that the state’s economy was “below average and often near the bottom” while Romney was governor. Here are five facts about the Massachusetts economy from Romney’s 2003–2007 tenure:
1. Ranked 47th in job growth: Despite Romney’s professed expertise in creating jobs, Massachusetts ranked 47th in job growth during his time as governor. The state’s total job growth was just 0.9 percent, well behind other high-wage, high-skill economies in New York (2.7), California (4.7), and North Carolina (7.6). The national average, meanwhile, was better than 5 percent.
2. Suffered the second-largest labor force decline in the nation: Only Louisiana, which was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, saw a bigger decline in its labor force than Massachusetts during Romney’s tenure as governor. The US Census Bureau estimated that between July 2002 and July 2006, 222,000 more residents left Massachusetts for other states than came to it. That decline largely explains the state’s decreasing unemployment rate (from 5.6 to 4.7 percent) while Romney was in office, according to Northeastern University economics professor Andrew Sum. At the same time, the nation as a whole added 8 million people to the labor force.
3. Lost 14 percent of its manufacturing jobs: Massachusetts lost 14 percent of its manufacturing jobs during Romney’s time in office, according to Sum. The loss was double the rate that the nation as a whole lost manufacturing jobs. In 2004, Romney vetoed legislation that would have banned companies doing business with the state from outsourcing jobs to other countries.
4. Experienced “below average” economic growth and was “often near the bottom”: “There was not one measure where the state did well under his term in office. We were below average and often near the bottom,” Sum told the Washington Post in February. As a result, the state was more comparable to Rust Belt states like Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio than it was to other high-tech economies it typically competes with.
5. Piled on more debt than any other state: Romney left Massachusetts residents with $10,504 in per capita bond debt, the highest of any state in the nation when he left office in 2007. The state ranked second in debt as a percentage of personal income. Romney regularly omits those statistics from his Massachusetts record, instead touting the fact that he balanced the state’s budget (he was constitutionally required to do so). He wouldn’t be much different as president: his proposed tax plan adds more than $10 trillion to the national debt.