Politics and the jobs report

Our view: Postings on Labor Dept. website certainly insulting, possibly dishonest

August 26, 2010

Let's assume that state Labor Secretary Alexander Sanchez is telling the truth and Gov. Martin O'Malley's campaign had nothing to do with the recent removal from the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation website of a report citing last month's weak Maryland job growth figures as evidence that the state's economy had "faltered in July," or with its replacement a few hours later with a report that put a more positive spin on the numbers. Let's assume that, as Mr. Sanchez explained, the initial report was "completely internal," posted by mistake and not intended for public consumption. And let's grant Mr. Sanchez's point that the numbers in the report stayed the same and only the analysis of them changed.

Does that somehow make the whole incident less insulting?

For one thing, why is it that the state agency in charge of keeping tabs on Maryland's employment situation is creating private, internal analyses of the state economy that are not meant to be shared with the public? If the professionals in the department think there is cause for concern, do we not have a right to know?

For another, how exactly could anyone look at the job growth numbers and not come to the same conclusion as this poor, anonymous analyst? In March, Maryland added about 29,000 jobs. In April, 8,200. In May, 11,200. In June, 1,600. In July, 500. It doesn't take a trained economist to see a trend here.

In fairness to those who want to put a more positive spin on Maryland's employment numbers, at least the state isn't losing jobs, as many others did last month — and the fact that we gained any at all is testament to private sector job growth that was strong enough to outweigh the end of temporary census jobs. The unemployment rate remains two percentage points below the national average, and the picture is likely to get better soon with the influx of jobs from a long-awaited realignment of military bases.

Times are tough, and they're not getting better as fast as we'd like. We're stumbling out of the worst recession in decades, a financial crisis and a housing crisis, and whatever recovery we're experiencing is coming in fits and starts. That said, things could be worse, and there's some reason for hope. That's the truth, and voters would probably respect a leader who said that.

The governor's spin on the situation, that the 500 jobs is further proof "that in these tough economic times, we continue to improve the conditions that allow businesses — large and small — to create jobs," is a little much. Whether someone in the governor's office was behind the reassessment at the department of labor, or whether someone there figured out that the agency was out of tune, is immaterial. It doesn't matter much who ordered the lipstick-to-pig application, it still insults voters' intelligence.

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