For a politician crow is something you'd rather do than eat. For Gov. Martin O'Malley, that less-than-delectable bird is off the menu for now.
September's jobs report, released Friday, brought the best numbers the state has seen in a long time. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that 9,800 new jobs were created in Maryland -- the best number in 29 months. That brought the state's unemployment rate down to 6.9 percent.
O'Malley was quick to put out a statement hailing the improvement -- and claiming a share of the credit for his administration:
"Last month, Marylanders created 9,800 new jobs ¿ the single greatest month of job creation in 29 months and the result of a thriving private sector that created 98 percent of all new jobs in September. Together, we’ve driven our unemployment rate down to 6.9 percent, which remains 12 percent below the national average. This past year, we’ve created 25,500 new jobs and to date, Maryland has recovered over three-quarters of the jobs we’ve lost during the Bush recession.“Thanks to choices we've made together, Maryland remains a leader in one of the nation's strongest job growth regions. Our economy continues to grow and our indicators of economic strength show signs of a strong recovery. This week, we announced that Maryland’s unemployment tax rate will drop by as much as 55 percent for our businesses ¿keeping even more of our families working. Our private sector continues to create jobs, and as the hub of growing innovation sectors like cyber security, information technology and aerospace, we continue to prove that we are on the cutting edge of the next wave of job creation.”
The statement marks a return to the bravado O'Malley showed in the first quarter of this year, when the governor was telling everyone who would listen how much better Maryland's job market was than Virginia's. Then Maryland's numbers started to tank this spring, and the tone of O'Malley's statements and press releases changed. A good example is his statement on the dismal June numbers, when Maryland she 11,000 jobs and saw its unemployment rate rise from 6.7 percent to 6.9 percent:
“In Maryland, we are moving forward. Nearly 25,000 more Marylanders are working than were last June. Twenty-two hundred fewer Marylanders have filed new unemployment insurance claims this June compared to a year ago (following 10 consecutive months of declines over the year). Home sales have reached their highest levels in two years and home sales prices have reached a near three-year high. And Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) enrollment has fallen by over 5,800 since the beginning of this year.
“With all our economic indicators demonstrating positive trends, we would not be surprised if the Bureau of Labor Statistics once again significantly revises these preliminary numbers. Last month, they not only reported the loss of 1,500 state government jobs we knew not to be true, but also added back 4,600 jobs that their initial report claimed were lost.
“In the last few weeks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked Maryland #1 for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, our students are leading the way for our #1 ranked public schools with record progress on standardized tests, and all three major credit rating agencies reaffirmed our Triple A bond rating, making Maryland one of only eight states with that distinction. This progress doesn’t happen by chance, but by the choices we’re making together to build a strong, growing and resilient economy.”
One interesting contrast between the two statements is that for September, the governor tells the reader the news up-front. In the statement about June, the job-loss and unemployment rate numbers are nowhere to be found. For those, you'd have to go to the news release by the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Also noteworthy: The bad news numbers are "preliminary" -- a word you'll search for in vain in the good news release.
O'Malley's approach to monthly statistical reports is hardly atypical. Politicians of both parties try to spin the news. And sometimes there's some merit to the spin: The Labor Department did later scale back its job-loss figure for June by 2,900 jobs.
Of course, the positive September numbers could be revised downward too. So the wise reader views the reports -- and what politicians say about them -- with a measure of skepticism.