Jim Geraghty looks at the trend of job numbers in New Jersey and sees a pattern developing since the gubernatorial campaign began in earnest. Initial employment estimates look positive, and Governor Jon Corzine hails them as a demonstration of his leadership. When they get revised later, however, the revisions have reduced the number of private-sector jobs for each of the last five months:
In August, the state department declared that “employment in New Jersey grew in July, led by a gain of 13,000 jobs at private sector companies.” The state’s numbers showed a decline of only 7,100 public-sector jobs, meaning that as a whole, 5,900 more New Jersey residents were going to work than had gone the previous month. It was great news for the state, and for Corzine, coming in a month when the nation had lost 247,000 jobs overall. …
But September’s release offered some below-the-fold revisions. New Jersey’s private-sector job gain in July was 5,600 jobs, far short of the initial 13,000 claim; the net result was that 500 fewer New Jerseyans were going to work than the previous month. And while the governor had claimed to be holding a tough line on spending, the total number of jobs in the public sector was revised upward — from 643,300 to 644,300.
There were other oddities in that August release. The state claimed that 6,200 jobs had been created in leisure and hospitality fields in July. One could easily imagine hiring in Jersey shore communities, or at amusement parks, picking up during the summer, but this dramatic growth came as the nation as a whole lost 64,000 jobs in this field, according to the federal Department of Labor. The revised number, released in September, reflected 1,100 fewer new jobs than initially claimed. …
However, there is a strange consistency to recent revisions. The state’s estimates of how many residents were employed in the private sector were revised down in the months of July, June, May, and April. (May’s initial private-sector employment number was revised downward by 600 jobs, while April’s number was revised down by 4,300.) The state’s private-sector number was last revised upward in March, long before campaign season began.
One might suspect that some larger, unforeseen trend is throwing off the department’s calculations, but the numbers from neighboring New York and Pennsylvania aren’t consistent with this theory.
There is always substantial risk in using initial estimates on government statistics. Later data usually changes the final numbers, but not always the trend. In fact, it seems unusual that any state would have its indicators reflect positively on initial publication and then skew negative in the final data for even two months in a row. When it happens five times in a row, and in the middle of a political campaign, it smells somewhat fishy.
Jim isn’t the only one looking askance at New Jersey’s estimates. Republicans in the state legislature want to hold hearings on why the Corzine administration has overestimated private sector job creation “by 132 percent.” Thus far, the Labor Committee chair, Democrat Joseph Egan, has not responded to that request.
If New Jersey wants an informed electorate to make a good choice in next month’s gubernatorial election, then the governing class should act to ensure confidence in what should be non-partisan analysis of the state’s economic condition. The fact that Egan appears unconcerned about those questions should tell Garden State voters which party wants an informed electorate, and which relies on keeping it uninformed.