It’s been bothering me since the beginning of the Pennsylvania primary race 6,000 years ago (give or take). The Democrats keep insisting that the economy in Pennsylvania is abysmal. The pundits keep comparing the state to Ohio. Barack Obama says the state’s economy is so bad that a once prosperous and secular people have been driven to embrace their sky god and shoot animals for sport. But my impression had always been that the Pennsylvania economy wasn’t that bad. I’ve been there a bit over the last few years and the talk has always been that the hard times were pretty much over and that Pennsylvania, unlike Ohio or Michigan, had largely succeeded in diversifying its economy. No one ever said it was Shangri-La or anything, but the grim picture we get these days doesn’t jibe with what the students, politicos and professors I’d chatted with had to say. Anyway I was searching for some stats and instead found this newsletter from last Summer from Ed Rendell, the Democratic Governor and Hillary Clinton’s state chairman:
Pennsylvania’s economy is strong and growing, and new data released this week offers more solid proof of our continuing success and progress.
May was the fourth consecutive month that Pennsylvania’s economy outperformed the nation’s economy. Our statewide unemployment rate of 4.2 percent was three tenths of a percentage point below the national rate for the month.
During my time in office, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate has been at or below the national rate in 43 out of 53 months – more than 80 percent of the time. This, coupled with the strength and growth of our job count, is a positive indication that our efforts to improve the quality of our workforce and expand the state’s business climate are indeed working.
To measure Pennsylvania’s economic strength, consider these four factors:
* Our unemployment rate is low: Only the most cynical of analysts could say that the 30-year record low we recorded earlier this year was anything other than good news. And, as I noted earlier, our jobless rate remains considerably below the national rate.
* We are a leader in available jobs: In this category, Pennsylvania is truly off the charts. For nine of the last 10 months, we have broken our record for the all-time-high number of jobs in the state, according to Department of Labor statistics. Pennsylvania’s overall job increase – 168,000-plus jobs in the last four years – makes us a leader among industrial states.
* We’re a magnet for business expansion: According to a 2006 study released by IBM Global Consulting, “Pennsylvania jumped into first place as the top destination state in terms of investment projects in 2005. In 2004, it did not make the list. For manufacturing projects, it moved from third to first place.”
* State revenues are strong: The growth of the Pennsylvania economy produced a surplus of nearly $1 billion at the end of fiscal 2006. And when fiscal 2007 ends in a few short weeks, we expect to build on that growth and produce an additional $500 million surplus.
Although these four measurements are more proof that our economy is robust, there is more important work to be done.
My proposed Jonas Salk Fund and the Energy Independence Program are examples of how we are continuing to find ways to generate new economic growth. Investments through the Salk fund proposal will greatly strengthen Pennsylvania’s reputation as an international center for biotechnology research and development. The Energy Independence initiative, which has already created more than 2,500 jobs in renewable energy production and technology, is projected to generate 13,000 new jobs and $3.5 billion in new private investment.
In addition, the $2.8 billion economic-stimulus program we enacted in 2004 clearly is producing results, and we have almost 40 percent of the funds in that program left to invest.
The economic growth we are creating through these strategic investments will provide new opportunities for Pennsylvania workers today and for generations to come.
Edward G. Rendell.