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PolitiFact: RNC chair Reince Priebus 'Pants on Fire' wrong about job losses

The statement

"We've lost 26 million jobs … since (Obama's) been president."

Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chairman, on NBC's Today show

The ruling

Asked by host Meredith Vieira whether the recent run of job growth and falling unemployment numbers "throw a real monkey wrench" into his party's argument against President Barack Obama's handling of the economy, Priebus said, "No, not at all. Under this president, he's promised millions and millions of jobs. We've lost 26 million jobs, Meredith, since he's been president. He promised under an $850 billion stimulus program that we'd be on a path to recovery. Well none of that has come true. … I think that pointing out a snail's pace in the job (growth) numbers is not going to be enough to undo 26 million jobs that are lost, Meredith."

Has the number of jobs declined by 26 million since Obama has been president?

Not by any standard method of calculating job losses.

We turned to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the official arbiter of U.S. employment numbers. We found that in January 2009, when Obama was sworn in, 133,563,000 Americans were employed. Today, that number is 130,738,000. That's a significant decline — but of 2.8 million jobs, roughly a tenth of what Priebus cited.

We then looked at the difference between the highest level of employment during the recent recession and the lowest level. From its peak in December 2007 to its bottom in February 2010, a total of 8.7 million jobs were lost. That's still only about one-third of the number Priebus gave — and that period was split roughly evenly between the presidencies of George W. Bush and Obama.

We arrived at these figures, as economists do, by comparing job gains with job losses to determine a net total. It's theoretically possible that 26 million jobs were lost during the Obama presidency and that 23.2 million jobs were created, leaving a net of 2.8 million jobs lost. But even if that were the case, economists across the political spectrum say it would be highly misleading of Priebus to focus on job losses without citing offsetting job gains.

We e-mailed the Republican National Committee's press office for an explanation, but they did not reply.

Perhaps Priebus simply misspoke, or perhaps he misplaced a decimal point and ended up wrong by a factor of 10.

Whatever the reason, the 26 million figure he cited on the Today show was ridiculously wrong. We rate it Pants on Fire.

For more rulings, go to PolitiFact.com

PolitiFact: RNC chair Reince Priebus 'Pants on Fire' wrong about job losses 04/06/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 9:30pm]
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