Below is a fine example of how to use carefully selected statistics – (im)properly presented — to make a point at odds with reality. The graphic below originated in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, so that media outfit bears ultimate responsibility for this flawed analysis.
But some local CA booster organizations are using this same misrepresentation to claim that California is doing better than Texas – a ludicrous assertion. More on that later.
Here’s the original graphic that’s now being circulated, along with a link to the short accompanying article.
This graphic carefully selects an incredibly short, favorable timeline to hype California vs. Texas. This is cheerleading rather than economic analysis.
Selecting the bottom of the California decline as the baseline (when Texas suffered far less from the recession) is sheer genius for CA boosters. Of course, the longer term reality of the two states is quite different. But hey — a cleverly designed graphic can trump facts any day.
A more objective comparison would cover the full recession period. If we take the time from January 2008 through March of this year, quite a different picture emerges. Both CA and TX have experienced a nearly identical net change of over a half million jobs during that period. Only problem? You guessed it. California net
jobs DECLINED 544,200, while Texas net jobs GREW 552,900.
(based on BLS statistics)
Also, the graphic includes the common dishonest tactic of using the NUMBER of jobs (rather than the percentages), giving CA a “boost” simply because we have 46% more people in our state. Stated differently, adjusting that change in the number of jobs for the different states’ populations, that’s the equivalent of California dropping (the same) 544,200 jobs during the recession while Texas jobs grew 806,212.
[Note to Texas boosters – you understated your advantage. Let this be a teaching moment.]
AN ASIDE: Note that Texas has been CUTTING government jobs just about as fast as California has been ADDING government jobs. Different mindsets.
Just to rub it in, I’ve included a couple more interesting sources. The first is fromThe Atlantic, a left-of-center publication that nevertheless extols the job creation in Texas – well, at least in Houston and Dallas (BTW, Austin beats both cities in the percentage stats – by a lot).
Houston Is Unstoppable: Why Texas’ Juggernaut Is America’s #1 Job Creator
Houston is blessed by topography and geography. But the city’s recent success is really a masterclass in learning from history.
Texas is killing it.
It dominated the recession, crushed the recovery, and in a new analysis of jobs recovered since the downturn, its largest city stands apart as the most powerful job engine in the country — by far.
The ten largest metros have recovered 98 percent of the jobs lost during the recession, on average. But Houston, the first major city to regain all the jobs lost in the downturn, has now added more than two jobs for every one it lost after the crash. That’s incredible.
It’s illuminating how this original misleading graphic came to my attention. Someone (who will remain anonymous) alerted me to this graphic, as our local business booster nonprofit was using this PowerPoint “slide” to make the case that CA is outdoing Texas in jobs created. The San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (SDREDC) is no schlock outfit – it’s a well-funded, sophisticated nonprofit generously backed by 150 local corporations — it is quite capable of grasping the errors in this presentation.
But, to be fair, it is NOT tasked with providing objective information – its mission statement is clear:
We serve local companies by providing assistance with expansion plans, programs to help retain businesses, and advocating for policies that enhance the region’s economic competitiveness. We lead attraction efforts to bring new investment and new companies to the region. We collaborate with industry associations and economic development partners to develop cohesive approaches to regional issues. We market the region to highlight the incredible talent available and the quality of life that keeps them here.
Objectivity is not mentioned. And actually as a booster organization, that is acceptable. I can’t complain – certainly I’M not objective.
But the difference is that no one thinks of me and my work as objective, nor should they. My articles and assertions should always be viewed as biased, though doubtless my fact-backed evidence validates my every word (I guess I’m not biased after all!).
In contrast, groups such as SDREDC are assumed by most to be objective sources of information – surely a perception any such nonprofit seeks to project. Like my work, their assertions should be viewed in that light. The old maxim holds – follow the money.
But even though they are biased, that in itself does NOT mean they are wrong. It means only that one should be property circumspect.
P.S. Over and over, I offend such Establishment organizations, and then I wonder why I can’t raise enough money to even come close to winning elections. Well, duh!
I gotta’ get a new consultant. Well, pay attention to what a consultant tells me, at least.