Will Today’s Job Numbers Help or Hurt Perry?
The latest jobs numbers for Texas are being released this morning.
The state’s unemployment rate has hovered around 8 percent for the last two years. That’s about one percent lower than the national average. It’s a fact Governor Rick Perry has used on the campaign trail to promote his record of job growth in Texas. But there is a significant political battle over whether the state’s job growth has been substantive or just flashy.
The Perry for President Campaign has promoted Texas job creation statistics all over Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. And candidate Perry has been touting what he considers to be the good news about the Texas economy. But critics say: not so fast. The Center for Public Policy Priorities, a progressive state policy think tank, has a new report out today focusing on what it calls the eroding of the middle class in Texas.
“By and large, the high wage industries have been shrinking over the last four years,” says Don Baylor, an analyst with the Center. “And the low wage ones, which are primarily responsive to massive population growth [that] we’ve had in Texas, have been growing the most rapidly. So that’s really the reality. That there are a lot more fast food [restaurants] in Texas then there were five years ago. And those jobs typically start at the bottom of the wage scale.”
Baylor says it costs more to go to university and college, and more than a quarter of Texas workers don’t have health insurance. Meanwhile, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that one in ten workers in Texas earn at or below the federal minimum wage. Compare that to the national average of 6 percent. But McCombs School of Business senior lecturer Robert Duvic says that’s the wrong way to frame the argument.
“I just think, bad jobs and good jobs, there’s a lot more than just ‘the higher the salary the better,’” says Duvic. “Certainly, the higher the salary that’s nice. But there’s respect to be given to these people.”
He says families still take pride in the work they do, whether it’s high paying or not. And that the state’s aggressive stance of recruiting businesses and creating a business friendly environment is having a positive effect.
“Now, we have to do a better job on education and giving people the ability to improve themselves,” Duvic told KUT. “But having jobs is the first step.”
Gov. Perry’s glowing reports on the economy also got a boost this week from the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Richard Fisher cautioned against bashing the state’s job growth too much. He challenged columnists and commentators from the New York Times and FOX News to stick to the facts. And he pointed out that 68 percent of the jobs created in Texas over the last two years are from sectors that provide good salaries. Perry spokesperson Lucy Nashed.
“Our economy is really diverse,” says Perry spokesperson Lucy Nashed. “It’s supporting job creation throughout numerous industries. You know we’ve got not just energy but high tech, financial services, communications, business… And each of these jobs represents a livelihood for a Texan and their family.”
If today’s jobs numbers are positive (and that positive trend continues through next year), it’s bound to help the Perry on the campaign trail, no matter what jobs are being created.