The Campaign Spot

Does the Governor Manage State Government, or Use It as a Campaign Tool?

I have a piece on the home page that I think deserves particular attention from my New Jersey readers.

As noted for much of the year, the Garden State’s economy is in rough, rough shape, with unemployment high and climbing. But the state has found some surprisingly good data on private-sector job creation, and those numbers were the centerpiece of campaign ads by incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine, particularly July’s estimate of 13,000 new private-sector jobs.

And then, a month later, the state said, “Whoops, private-sector employment didn’t increase by 13,000 jobs, it increased by 5,600,” a fairly significant revision. That prompted me to look back to the previous releases, where I found that the intial number was revised downward in June, and May, and April, some months by a few hundred, one month by as much as 4,300.

While it’s not surprising that the numbers would change with more data, it’s a little unusual that the number of New Jerseyans employed in the private sector has been intially overestimated every month of the general-election campaign. By comparison, during this same time period, New York and Pennsylvania overestimated it some months, and underestimated it others.

The fact that the state is four-for-four in the initial numbers making the job-creation environment look a little better than it is — giving Corzine just enough to claim he’s “creating jobs” in commercials — adds a very interesting wrinkle to this Star-Ledger story:

In the midst of a tough re-election campaign focusing on his stewardship of the economy, Gov. Jon Corzine’s office recently instructed his cabinet officers to orchestrate events showcasing job creation.
In an Oct. 5 e-mail obtained by The Star-Ledger, Corzine deputy chief of staff Mark Matzen asked the commissioners of several departments to “come up with an event or two or three that show job creation or economic development in the private sector.” The events, planned for this week, would “get our message out” that “the economic policies of Governor Corzine are working,” in part by generating “stories in weekly as well as daily newspapers,” Matzen wrote.

“I know that it might be a stretch for some of you, but please be creative,” the e-mail states. “While many programs might not created (sic) jobs directly, they do have some connection to job creation either through training, giving money to sustain employment or create demand for workers.”

So the Corzine governor’s-office staff is urging state employees to showcase private-sector job creation, and for the past four months, the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development just happens to put out cheerful press releases about private-sector job creation that turn out to have an expiration date.

Hey, where’s that “fishy” e-mail hotline when you need it?

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