Herewith a jaundiced review, replete with hackneyed regional stereotypes and miscellaneous libels, of how the labor market has done since the Great Recession in states with goobernatorial elections. Do I think governors create jobs? Not really. But they like to pretend they do. Of course, if one looks at actual data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, voters might be disabused of such notions.
If you can prove you are part of the vast left-wing conspiracy, I can email you the spreadsheets with the source data. If you aren’t, ahem, well fuck you, you’ll have to use this, or (especially if you’re MSNBC) pay me. $5K should do it.
I have traced changes in the states with elections since the end of the recession (June, 2009) or the start of the term of the incumbent seeking reelection, whichever is more recent. Most incumbents took office in 2011.
A few facts about the U.S. as a whole. The recovery has been long but very slow. There has been limited progress over a long period. Keep in mind when I say a state has done well, it’s compared to the mediocre national averages. It’s the least-ugly dog competition.
The national labor force participation rate (LFPR, which is those employed or seeking work as a share of the civilian non-institutionalized population over age 16) has gone down since 2009 (longer, in fact, but that’s another story) by 2.9 percentage points. That’s a lot, as these things go. The employment-population ratio (EPOP) is down .4 pps. We would expect it to up after a recession. Some of this is due to aging of the population, but the LFPR has also declined for ‘prime-age’ workers (24-55). To be fair we should compare changes in states to the associated (contemporaneous) national averages, to see if they suck even more.
So here we go:
Alabama, home of the sucktastic “we-all-did-what-we-could-do” Lynyrd Skynyrd. Gov. Robert Bentley (R) is running for reelection. He can brag that the state unemployment rate has gone down by two percentage points. But oh wait! The LFPR is also down, 3.1 percentage points (‘pps’). So is the employment-population ratio. In fact, unlike the nation as a whole, total employment growth since Mr. Bentley graced the state with his presence is actually negative, one of only five states with that dubious achievement. Verdict: Hey Bentley, the king is gone and so are you!
Alaska. Gov. Sean Parnell (R), successor to you-know-who, is running. Among the worst labor market stats in the U.S. 38th in reductions in the unemployment rate, LFPR down, EPOP down, 36th in annual employment growth. Verdict: Parnell, go back to moose hunting.
Arizona. Gov. Jan Brewer is not running. Unemployment rate is down 2.8 pps, but once again the LFPR is down much more — 4.7 pps. This is another of the five states with absolute declines in employment. Verdict: a vote for the status quo is loco.
Arkansas. The incumbent Democrat Mike Beebe is not running. Another of the fab five states with absolute employment declines. In other respects resembles Alaska and Arizona. Verdict: send Bill Clinton down there to stimulate the hospitality industry.
California. My man Gov. Jerry Brown (D) up for re-election against Neal Cash-n-carry from Goldman Sachs. What else do you need to know. 4th most rapid annual employment growth in the U.S. Decline in unemployment, a whopping 4.7 pps, second in the nation. I could go on. Now go forth and “Protect the Earth, serve the people, and explore the universe.”
Colorado. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), another good employment record. Beats the national averages across the board, third in annual employment growth. It must be the weed. Verdict: Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.
Connecticut. Gov. Dan Malloy (D) running. Numbers close to the national averages, so no worse than average, not much better. Verdict: try harder, Gov.
Florida. Gov. Rick Scott (R), a.k.a. Lex Luthor (h/t Atrios, who hath forsaken me, sob). This one hurts. One of the best labor market performances in the U.S. Fair and balanced! First in annual employment growth. Verdict: he’s still a crook who is doing awful things; go with Cool Charlie.
Georgia. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is running again. Record is not great, not awful. Not much to brag about. A little bit better employment growth than average. Verdict: meh.
Hawaii. Incumbent Democrat governor is not running. State beats national numbers solidly. Verdict: don’t change dolphins in mid-channel.
Idaho. Gov. Butch Don’t-think-of-Animal-House Otter (R) is running. Pretty good numbers, actually. Tenth in employment growth. Verdict: watch out for the Aryan Brotherhood.
Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn, in one of the worst-run states in the country. Hasn’t recovered from Gov. Goodhair. Best part of the story is the increase in EPOP of 1.1 pps. Otherwise not much to brag about. Verdict: it could be worse, it could be Rahm.
Iowa. Gov. Terry Branstad (R). Good numbers. Least decline in LFPR, solid better-than-average employment growth of 1% (remember, it’s all relative). Verdict: concentrate on beating that lady who delights in mutilating our animal friends.
Kansas. Gov. Brownback (R) is running, for his life evidently, his secretary of state having failed to assassinate his opponent. Pretty mid-range numbers, not awful, no real bright spots. Verdict: something is still the matter.
Maine. Gov. Paul LePage (D for demented) is running. May be planning an armed insurrection. Labor numbers better than average, though not all that much. Verdict: he’s nuts.
Maryland. My own state of residence. Incumbent Martin O’Malley (D), not running, will be starting a jug band and touring the country, hoping Hillary notices him. Another ‘meh’ performance overall, but hey, we weren’t so bad off to begin with. Among the highest income states in the country. Our most prominent Republican is Ruthann Aron, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1994 and was convicted of hiring a hitman to murder her husband in 1998. She got a reduced sentence by claiming insanity, which for a Republican in front of a Maryland jury would usually be convincing legal defense. Verdict: we cool.
Massachusetts. Gov. Deval Patrick (D) is running. Good not great numbers across the board. Verdict: are there still Republicans in Massachusetts, or did they ship them all off to work camps?