Despite his claim to the contrary this week, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is not the only chief executive to hold office in recent history while Connecticut has grown jobs.
In fact, it doesn’t even take much leafing through the history books to find someone whose tenure included more job growth. Gov. John G. Rowland, who resigned in June 2004 amid a bid-rigging scandal that later landed him in federal prison for 10 months, oversaw Connecticut for 10 years during which almost 90,000 jobs were added — just over double the growth recorded since Malloy took office in January 2011.
“You can’t name a recent governor who’s had net job growth,” Malloy told host John Dankosky during his Tuesday appearance on “Where We Live,” WNPR’s weekday public affairs program. “I’m the one — no others.”
Since he launched his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Malloy has been pointing out that Connecticut was one of only two states in the nation to lose jobs during the 1990s and 2000s.
More recently the governor has tried to counter reports of an unemployment rate stagnating around 8 percent by pointing out that the state has been gaining jobs since he took office.
And this week he expanded his response by saying, “There is no other recent governor who’s had net job growth.”
That’s not correct — according to the administration’s own numbers.
The state Department of Labor’s Records for seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment show job numbers fell in total during the 1990s and 2000s combined — but not during every gubernatorial administration during those two decades.
Economists interviewed by The Mirror have downplayed the significance of all of these numbers, which may have more to do with politics and campaign messages than employment strategies.
They note that while state policy is important, job numbers in the relatively short context of one gubernatorial administration primarily reflect national and international economic forces and state trends developed over decades.
- Lowell P. Weicker, an independent, oversaw the Nutmeg State during the national recession that included a significant weakening of the defense industry.
- Rowland, a Republican, governed during the national economic boom of the early-to-mid administration of President Bill Clinton.
- GOP Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s tenure concluded during the nation’s worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
- And when Malloy became governor just over 2 ½ years ago, the state’s job market was near a post-recession low point. Since then both the national and state economies have grown, albeit at a much slower pace than the recoveries following recessions in the early 2000s and early 1990s.
There are some other positives to which the current governor can point.
Nearly all of the job growth since Malloy took office has been in the private sector, while nearly one-third during Rowland’s tenure involved new local, state or federal jobs.
State government also had about 1,200 fewer full-time equivalent positions entering this summer compared with January 2011, according to the administration.
Malloy spokesman Andrew Doba issued a statement Friday morning clarifying the administration’s position on job growth.
“The Governor was referring to a fact that everyone in this state knows — that our economy had been stagnant for decades. We failed to invest in the industries that were poised to grow, and instead careened from one project to the next without any real cogent strategy. That can no longer be said about Connecticut’s economic development strategy.”
Still, the Democratic governor’s GOP critics said his comments this week were careless and inaccurate.
“We are all looking for good news. We all want our economy to get better,” Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, R-Fairfield, said. “But the governor needs to be honest with people about the state of our economy. You can’t go anywhere in Connecticut without talking to people who are still hurting.”
Malloy, who hasn’t announced if he will seek re-election, has been quick to dismiss criticism from McKinney, who recently announced his candidacy for governor in 2014.
But the Fairfield Republican said Thursday that “whether Dannel Malloy has a candidate committee or not, we all know he is running for governor. The real difference is that my comments are truthful — his aren’t.”
“His comments were very misleading,” added House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero, R-Norwalk. “When the governor came in we had hit the bottom of the recession. Given that, any job growth, by virtue of time, would take place on his watch.
“The real question is: Why is our unemployment rate still above 8 percent?” Cafero said, noting Connecticut’s 8.1 percent jobless rate also tops the national average of 7.4 percent.
“We are pleased that partisan critics of the governor are no longer arguing over if any jobs have been created under the governor’s leadership, but how many jobs have been created,” Doba added. “For the record, the number of private sector jobs created during the first two years of the Malloy administration represents the largest growth of private sector jobs in this state since the late 90s.”
“When Republicans stop issuing press releases in support of and campaigning on projects and policies they voted against, maybe they will restore some of their credibility,” Doba said. “But that is an awfully big maybe.”
Rowland could not be reached for comment Friday.