Debate Fact Check on Jobs: Who Told The Truth and Who Didn't

presidential debates 2012

When you pit two graduates of Harvard Law against each other in a debate, it should come as no surprise that you get a debate chock full of stats. And that's what the first 2012 presidential debate between Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney was -- high on policy.

Even the harshest critics of mainstream American politics, such as Glenn Greenwald of Salon, couldn't help but agree. The night was "actually a reasonably substantive and good debate," the Salon blogger tweeted.

But in spite of the blizzard of facts and figures shared by President Obama and Gov. Romney, it turns out that not everything they said was entirely accurate. And even though jobs is the No. 1 issue for the American people, the candidates spent much of their time squabbling over the deficit, taxes and the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare."

But for those times when jobs were addressed, AOL Jobs has fact-checked the candidates' claims:

More: Top 10 Jobs Of The 21st Century


Claim No. 1: "Over the last 30 months, we've seen 5 million jobs in the private sector created," President Obama said.

Fact: You may be familiar with this one as it was trotted out during the Democratic National Convention. And it's based on truth -- according to numbers compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But you might say, 30 months only brings us back back to January 2010. And didn't the president take office in January 2009?

Indeed he did, and in his first year in office, the country lost some 5 million jobs. The unemployment rate was surging, reaching as high as 10.6 percent in Ohio. So while things have gotten better since then (the unemployment rate in Ohio is now 7.6 percent), the cumulative job creation in the private sector during Obama's first term is in fact a more humble 125,000.

Bottom Line: When this line was shared during the convention by keynote speaker Julian Castro, among others, AOL Jobs noted the "stat is completely accurate, but could only be described as disingenuous." This arbitrary time period results in a much more positive story for the Obama campaign than what has really happened since the president took office. But it is true that jobs creation has turned around after his first year in office.


Claim No. 2: "They're suffering in this country. And we talk about evidence. Look at the evidence of the last four years. It's absolutely extraordinary. We've got 23 million people out of work or stopped looking for work in this country," Gov. Romney said.

Fact: This is the one you heard about at the Republican National Convention, thanks to Clint Eastwood. Much to his credit, Romney was careful to not use the term "unemployed," as the actor did to describe that group. Instead, the Republican presidential nominee referred to them as "out of work."

But ever since Eastwood came up with that stat for the number of unemployed in America, it's been widely shared, even though it alters the meaning of the word unemployed as it's usually used, as it includes 8.2 million part-time, underemployed workers who wish they had full employment. That might not fully qualify as "out of work," as the former Massachusetts governor said.

Bottom Line: The stat accurately reflects a group of Americans whose employment is insufficient. But, as AOL Jobs noted at the Republican convention, the 23 million includes a statistical sum for "underemployed Americans," which the Bureau of Labor Statistics shies away from doing because of the "difficulty of developing an objective set of criteria."

Moreover, the cumulative total of unemployed, discouraged workers -- or other marginally attached and underemployed who wish they had better employment -- hasn't in fact changed all that much since Obama took office; in Jan. 2009, the number stood at 22.1 million.


Claim No. 3: "If I'm president I will create -- help create 12 million new jobs in this country with rising incomes," Gov. Romney said.

Fact: That promise by Romney may not be a very high hurdle -- it's the exact figure that's been used by economic forecasters for how many jobs they already expect the economy will add over the next four years. And this has nothing to do with who is in the White House, provided that the next occupant of the Oval Office will "reasonably gracefully address the fiscal cliff, increase the Treasury debt ceiling without major incident, and achieve something close to fiscal sustainability," Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandy told The New York Times. The 12 million number has also been forecast by Macroeconomics Advisers.

Bottom Line: There's no actual fact to check here, as it's a prediction by Romney. But it does seem convenient that he's picked a number that's also been chosen by economists as the number of jobs that might naturally result from a stable economy.

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