The Obama and Romney campaigns sparred Sunday over what is the most repeated statistic of the political moment: Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 states in job growth when Romney was governor.
Appearing together on ABC’s “This Week,’’ Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom and Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter offered competing takes on the presumptive Republican nominee’s jobs record.
“Actually, when Mitt Romney arrived, Massachusetts was an economic basket house,’’ Fehrnstrom said. “If you throw D.C. into the mix, we were 51 out of 51. By the time Mitt Romney left four years later, we were in the middle of the pack. We were 30th in the nation in terms of job growth. That’s the trend line that you want to see. That’s called a turnaround. And it’s what this president has been unable to execute with the national economy.’’
Cutter questioned Fehrnstrom’s assertion, saying she had been “looking at different numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.’’
“Well, that’s where these numbers come from,’’ Fehrnstrom replied.
Cutter said Massachusetts was 36th out of 50 states when Romney took office and 47th when he left.
The Globe reviewed numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and found Fehrnstrom’s and Cutter’s seemingly irreconcilable figures are, in fact, mostly compatible and true. But the campaigns present the numbers in different ways.
In its review, the Globe examined seasonally adjusted, nonfarm jobs, the most commonly accepted employment measure.
The statistics show that Massachusetts’ job growth ranking improved dramatically from Romney’s first year in office to his last, but its cumulative ranking during Romney’s four-year term was markedly lower than it was under his predecessor.
The assertion that Massachusetts under Romney ranked 47th out of 50 states in job growth is true, and the Romney campaign has not disputed its accuracy. If the District of Columbia is included, Massachusetts’ rank was 48th. Over the four-year period 2003 to 2006, Massachusetts jobs grew by 1.26 percent, well behind the national median of 4.84 percent. In the previous four-year span 1999 to 2002, job growth in the Bay State was just 0.89 percent, but its national rank was 35th.
A comparison between the full-term job growth rankings of Romney and his predecessor, Jane Swift, supports Cutter’s point. From one governor’s four-year term to the next, Massachusetts’ national ranking dropped 13 spots.
Yet, the bureau’s data also reinforce Fehrnstrom’s argument. In 2003, Romney’s first year in office, the number of jobs in Massachusetts declined by 1.39 percent, ranking it “51 out of 51,’’ as Fehrnstrom said. In 2006, Romney’s last full year in office, Massachusetts jobs grew by 1.06 percent, 32d in the nation. Over the course of Romney’s tenure as governor, Massachusetts’ annual job growth ranking improved by 19 spots.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick joined in the criticism over Romney’s jobs record on Sunday, but he continued to land softer punches than other surrogates for President Obama.
Patrick, a cochairman of Obama’s reelection campaign, cited the 47th in the nation number. But, Patrick said, that “doesn’t mean he was a failure as governor.’’
The Obama campaign spent much of last week casting Romney’s gubernatorial tenure as an unmitigated disappointment.
During an Obama campaign press conference at the State House on Thursday, Massachusetts House Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad declared “Mitt didn’t do anything he promised here in Massachusetts.’’
Patrick has praised Romney in earlier interviews for leading health care reform in Massachusetts, though he has accused the former governor of running away from the accomplishment on the campaign trail.
Ex-Utah governor to lead Romney transition team
Mike Leavitt, the former governor of Utah and health and human services secretary under President George W. Bush, has been charged with leading Mitt Romney’s presidential transition team.
Leavitt has acted as a low-profile adviser to Romney during the campaign, and the two have been close since Leavitt, as governor, courted Romney to run the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Leavitt is considered a strong candidate to become Romney’s chief of staff, according to the report, should the former Massachusetts governor beat President Obama in November.
Leavitt, 61, and Romney, 65, have much in common: They are Mormons, businessmen, and former governors, and both are considered right-leaning moderates.