When Mitt Romney ran for Massachusetts governor in 2002, the private equity magnate said he was uniquely qualified to create jobs, particularly in the private sector, and to lure employers to the Bay State.
Instead, under his leadership the state was the fourth-weakest in the country for total job growth and the third-weakest for private-sector job growth — causing hundreds of thousands of his fellow residents to leave Massachusetts, seeking opportunities elsewhere, the data show.
Mr. Romney is making the exact same promises as GOP presidential candidate today, even touting his Massachusetts "job growth" record in a major economic policy speech last week. What would his national record be four years from now if he performed in the White House as he did in Boston? And what would it mean for Maryland?
We crunched the numbers, and here's what we found:
If it matched his Massachusetts track record, a Romney administration would only create one-sixth the jobs it has promised. That is, he would fall short of his 12 million jobs promise by about 10 million. That's what you get when you multiply Massachusetts' 1.5 percent overall job growth under Mr. Romney by the number of people employed nationally.
For Maryland, a Romney administration would mean a paltry 42,863 jobs over four years, not enough to put a significant dent in the state's 6.9 percent unemployment rate.
The former governor's record of creating private sector jobs is weaker than that of President Barack Obama, the data show, even though Mr. Obama inherited a far worse economy than the Bain Capital founder did in Massachusetts. U.S. private sector jobs have grown by 1.6 percent, or 1.9 million, since Mr. Obama took office, compared with just 36,000 — or less than 1.3 percent growth — in Massachusetts during Mr. Romney's gubernatorial term.
The only states in America that did worse than Massachusetts between 2003 and 2007 in terms of private sector job growth were Mississippi and Minnesota.
Mr. Romney's poor performance as a job-creator relative to Mr. Obama is all the more extraordinary when you consider that Mr. Obama inherited an economy in collapse, which hemorrhaged more than 8 million public and private sector jobs in 2008 and 2009. Mr. Romney, meanwhile, had the good fortune to be governor at a time when the national economy grew jobs at a rate of over 6 percent, adding more than 8.5 million jobs.
Finally, Massachusetts' unemployment rate drop under Mr. Romney — a source of pride for the GOP candidate — is largely attributable to people leaving the state in search of work elsewhere. The number of people leaving Massachusetts for other parts of the country during Mr. Romney's term exceeded the number of Americans who moved there by 200,000. That "out-migration" kept the Massachusetts labor force from growing. And when the labor force stagnates, the unemployment rate goes down even when very few jobs are being created.
The only states to experience greater out-migration of their residents were Rhode Island, New York and Louisiana. Louisiana's people left because the economy was wiped out by a natural disaster, Katrina. Massachusetts' residents migrated because the state's economy was one of the weakest in the nation.
These findings, which come from an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau data, may surprise Romney supporters, who take him at his word as a job-creation expert. But they would not surprise the people who know Mitt Romney and his economic policies best: the citizens of Massachusetts.
By November 2006, fully 65 percent of Mr. Romney's constituents disapproved of his gubernatorial performance, ranking him 48th most disapproved governor in the country. Today, Massachusetts voters prefer Mr. Obama over Mr. Romney by huge margins in recent polls. Clearly, they don't want Mr. Romney to do to America what he did to their state.
Maryland residents and the rest of the country should take heed.
Robert Lynch is a visiting senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a professor of economics at Washington College in Maryland.