Commentary: Nikki Haley using fuzzy math on jobs

The State (Columbia, S.C.)July 25, 2011 

Nikki Haley is hardly the first S.C. governor to put out misleading job-recruitment numbers. In fact, we can’t recall a governor who hasn’t done that.

Oh, the governors usually are technically correct when they boast of the number of jobs that have been announced on their watch. But they do that knowing full well that most people will think they’re talking about the number of new jobs that are actually available for South Carolinians who want to work.

In fact, the difference can be huge. Much like announcements about the wonderful things that are going to happen with Innovista and the State Hospital property, job-creation announcements are mere plans for what may eventually happen — always subject to the economy and countless other variables. Even when everything goes as planned, the jobs are months or even years down the road. Sometimes the actual jobs fall far short of the promise. Sometimes they never materialize at all.

And what actually gets counted can be slippery. A few years back, the Commerce Department reformed its counts to include only those jobs it was actually involved in recruiting — which makes sense when you’re trying to judge how good a job the department does. Gov. Haley’s decision to add 4,000 projected WalMart jobs that her Commerce Department doesn’t count in order to reach her 10,000-new-jobs claim was based on her dubious suggestion that meeting with company officials and asking for a number somehow influenced their plans. But even including those numbers is justifiable if we’re trying to measure what’s on the horizon for the state of South Carolina.

What sets Gov. Haley apart from her predecessors is her incessant repetition of the job-growth claims, often made in such a way as to imply that she is responsible for them.

It is indeed useful to keep track of job-announcement numbers, in order to, as the governor says, celebrate new jobs and build excitement. But the real measure of how well our state is recruiting jobs is ... the number of people in our state who have jobs.

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