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PolitiFact: Romney claim of 'slowest job recovery since Hoover' is false

The statement

"This is the slowest job recovery since (President Herbert) Hoover."

Mitt Romney, Republican presidential candidate, Thursday at Buddy Brew Coffee in Tampa

The ruling

We turned to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal government's official source for employment figures. We believe there are two ways to analyze Romney's claim, either by judging the number of jobs created or by tracking how much the unemployment rate decreased.

We also decided to compare recessions by looking at the first 23 months after a given recession officially ended. We chose that period because the last recession ended 23 months ago. Doing it this way provides an equal baseline for comparing all recessions.

We used the quasi-official arbiter of recessions — the National Bureau of Economic Research — to determine the start and end dates for recessions. We weren't able to go further back than World War II, since that's how far back monthly BLS data goes.

Here's the gist:

Job creation: By this measure, there were two recoveries weaker than the one we're currently experiencing — the one from November 2001 to October 2003, under President George W. Bush, and the one from July 1980 to June 1982, under presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. The George W. Bush recovery is especially striking, since the economy actually lost more than 700,000 jobs during the first 23 months after the recession ended.

Unemployment rate: By this measure, too, the current recovery is not the weakest. Three recoveries actually saw an increase in the unemployment rate after 23 months (ones under George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush and Carter/Reagan), while another (under President Richard Nixon) produced a smaller decline in the unemployment rate than the current recovery has. (Because a budding recovery can entice discouraged workers back into the labor force, it's not unusual for the unemployment rate to rise in a recovery.)

So, depending on the measure you use, there are either two or four recoveries since Hoover that were weaker than the current one.

None of this is to suggest that the current recovery is robust. It isn't. Measured by jobs created, it has been exceeded on a percentage basis by 10 out of the 12 recessions we looked at.

But it's inaccurate to say that "it's the slowest job recovery since Hoover." Depending on what yardstick you use, it's either the third-worst or the fifth-worst recovery since World War II. We rate Romney's claim False.

This ruling has been edited for print. For the full version — and to read other rulings — go to PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: Romney claim of 'slowest job recovery since Hoover' is false 06/16/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 16, 2011 8:47pm]
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