The Corner

Which GOP Candidate Has the Best Job-Growth Record?

Who’s the best job creator of them all?

While all the GOP contenders are quick to hit the “jobs, jobs, jobs” mantra, the former governors running for president have very different records on job creation. According to a National Review Online analysis of seasonally adjusted employment data (looking at the total number of those employed) from the Bureau of Labor website, Gary Johnson has the best record of the official candidates, with a job-growth rate of 11.6 percent during his tenure.

But Johnson, who governed from 1995 to 2003, doesn’t overlap much with the other governors — Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Jon Huntsman — who are running. Among the crowd who governed primarily during the 2000s, Huntsman has the best record. During his 2005 to 2009 tenure as governor of Utah, the number of jobs grew by 5.9 percent.

Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty have much weaker records. Romney, who governed Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, had an overall job-growth rate of 1.6 percent. During Pawlenty’s time as governor of Minnesota (2003 to 2011), the number of jobs grew by an anemic 0.5 percent.

Rick Perry, who is flirting with a presidential run but has not yet announced his candidacy, had an overall job-growth rate of 12.5 percent from January 2001 (he was inaugurated as governor of Texas in late December 2000) to April of this year, the most recent month for which finalized numbers were available. 

Of course, some of these comparisons are apples to oranges; Pawlenty, Huntsman, and Perry, for instance, all were governors during the recession, while Romney and Johnson were not. State population changes could also play a role in determining whether a state’s employment numbers surge or decline.

So, what happens if you compare the governors over the same time period? Well, looking at Romney’s tenure from January 2003 to January 2007 shows that he achieved growth of 1.6 percent. Pawlenty had the same overall rate (1.6 percent) in Minnesota. In Texas, Perry achieved 7.2 percent growth.

During Huntsman’s tenure, January 2005 to August 2009, Utah had the best overall job-growth rate of any state in the nation. In that same time frame, Perry’s job-growth rate was 4.9 percent. Pawlenty’s job-growth rate was negative: The number of jobs in Minnesota decreased by 1.8 percent.

During Pawlenty’s tenure, January 2003 to January 2011, the overall job-growth rate was 0.5 percent. In that period, Perry (the only other governor to fully overlap with the two-term Pawlenty) hiked the number of jobs by 7.2 percent.

To be fair, even looking only at the same time periods ignores various factors (including the fact that Huntsman and Perry governed significantly more right-leaning states than Romney and Pawlenty) that impact job creation. But you’re sure to hear more about these numbers as the campaign progresses.

– Katherine Connell contributed to the research for this post.

Katrina Trinko — Katrina Trinko is a political reporter for National Review. Trinko is also a member of USA TODAY’S Board of Contributors, and her work has been published in various media outlets ...

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