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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

"7 million short"

This morning the Kerry blog says Bush "predicted that his job creation package would create nearly 6 million jobs. Since that time, the American economy has lost nearly 1 million jobs. Bush is 7 million short of his job creation goal nationally." Making an issue of the job losses makes sense, but playing around with the numbers doesn't, and I've noticed the campaign has been sticking with the "7 million short" language despite revisions in the jobs data over recent months.

For example, on the manufacturing page of the Kerry site, it says, "7 million jobs short of President Bush's prediction. Annual job growth projections in the 2002 Economic Report of the President implied job growth of about 5 million between January 2001 and March 2004. Instead we have lost about 2 million jobs. As a result, we are some 7 million jobs short of the prediction President Bush made."

From Googling around, I see the 7 million stat got into a Derrick Jackson column in April as well as a USA Today article quoting Gene Sperling last month. Somehow that 7 million figure remains a Kerry staple even as the employment numbers have gone up, and it reminds me of the primary campaign when each candidate seemingly had a different number for the total job loss in the Bush presidency. I hope we can maintain a better standard of statistical accuracy, as that helps one's credibility when accusing the other side of playing fast and loose with the data.

MORE: I also think I remember seeing video of an event during the primary when Kerry makes the "7 million short" point by saying we'd lost 3 million jobs and the president had promised a gain of 4 million. As I review this all, a possible explanation is that these different ways to add to 7 million have occurred sequentially over time. Maybe there has been job growth in recent months, but it has only been enough to keep pace with the projected growth; that is to say, it has only prevented the administration from falling deeper into the hole. So while we now see less of a net decline in employment during the Bush presidency than before, the projected growth in employment by now is also higher. That's plausible, but a little hard to figure out, and having different jobs data on separate pages of the web site is confusing. I see no date on the manufacturing page, but I guess from the data used it's through March, whereas today's blog post is relevant to the data period ending with June.

Another version of this I found is in "John Kerry's Plan to Create 10 Million Jobs."

Bush is over 7 million jobs behind the projections of job growth made by his own Council of Economic Advisors in February 2002. Annual job growth projections in the 2002 Economic Report of the President implied job growth of 5.2 million between January 2001 and February 2004. Instead we have lost 2.2 million jobs.

So that's the version of the argument through February. I wonder if a few years down the road we'll see the Republicans attacking Kerry for coming up short on his own job growth projections?