On Pennsylvania’s Job Growth

Former Gov. Ed Rendell emerged from his semi-retirement to toot his own horn, saying his spending is why Pennsylvania’s economy is so great. Rendell cites statistics that Pennsylvania ranks 7th in job growth over the past year.

There are several problems with this one-year ranking:

  • After decades of stagnant economic growth, Pennsylvania had continued stagnant economic growth. Indeed, the job growth in 2010, coming out of a recession, was a scant 1.9 percent.
  • Since 1970, Pennsylvania ranked 46th in job growth (slightly updated figure from our PolicyBrief on the state budget). Under Gov. Rendell, the state ranked 29th in job growth—one could argue the state’s economy was less bad, but this was a period in which Pennsylvania lost jobs.
  • The primary reason for Pennsylvania’s ranking in recent years is that other states suffered major job losses as part of the housing market collapse. Pennsylvania, however, had no economic boom from which to collapse.
  • Rendell’s logic that Pennsylvania had a good 2010 because of his tax-borrow-and-spend economic development programs fails to address why Pennsylvania had a lousy 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, or 2009. Or why the growth in state spending from 1970-2010 didn’t create jobs in the commonwealth. And while Gov. Rendell blames the national economy for job losses under his tenure, he can’t explain why the borrow-and-spend economic development programs of Bush and Obama (which mirrored his own) didn’t work.

In looking at Pennsylvania’s job growth, consider where job growth occurred over the last year, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ quarterly data on county employment. The fastest growing counties where those in which natural gas drilling is occurring:

In other words, the reason for job growth during Gov. Rendell’s final year is the natural gas industry—which Gov. Rendell wanted to tax, but lawmakers thought better of.