News Story

‘Mostly false’: Freep: Whitmer’s claims of 25K auto jobs are based on announcements, not jobs

But for the watchdog media, you might not realize Michigan has lost auto jobs, not gained them

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has conceded that her claim of having created 25,000 auto jobs was based on announcements, not actual jobs.

The governor has avoided Michigan Capitol Confidential’s requests for comment on her job claims for several months. But in response to a fact check by the Detroit Free Press, a Whitmer representative said that the administration produced a favorable estimate of its employment performance based on public statements by Michigan businesses.

CapCon has estimated that Michigan has lost 1,600 auto jobs since January 2019, according to federal job data. The governor did not respond to CapCon’s requests for clarification.

But Whitmer’s team finally revealed its methodology on Friday. Clara Hendrickson of the Detroit Free Press wrote in her fact check of Whitmer’s auto job claims: “Publicly available employment data does not show that Michigan has gained 25,000 additional jobs in the auto industry since January 2019 when Whitmer entered office.”

Hendrickson writes in her account: “Whitmer spokesperson Bobby Leddy wrote in an email that the jobs figure from the governor is ‘a conservative estimate’ of the jobs auto manufacturers and suppliers have announced since 2019 as part of auto manufacturing expansions supported by the state.”

Conservative or not, Leddy’s statement confirms what James Hohman, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s director of fiscal policy, has argued throughout the year: The governor was basing her claims not on actual jobs but on announcements made by private companies.

The gold standard for statistics on auto jobs in Michigan, Hohman said, is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Comparing BLS figures from January 2019 to those from April 2022 shows that Michigan has not gained 25,000 auto jobs. Instead, it lost 1,600.

The Washington Free Beacon, comparing January 2019 to May 2022, found Michigan had lost 3,000 auto jobs.

The numbers fluctuate so wildly from month to month that it’s a wonder any governor would tie her record to them.

Whitmer’s reliance on job announcements is misleading. Jobs are staffed by humans, who receive pay and benefits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics can tell you how many jobs exist in a given sector. Jobs are not simply announced.

Since Whitmer’s number is only based on announcements, it doesn’t account for jobs lost. This is how a so-called conservative estimate can be 26,000 to 28,000 jobs off: It tells less than half of the story.

Job announcements aren’t jobs, and a top-line number of jobs filled (let alone promised) is meaningless, unless you know how many were lost.

Hendrickson writes:

Leddy and Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) spokesperson Otie McKinley provided a list of dozens of companies that have collectively promised to create more than 25,000 jobs in Michigan’s auto industry in exchange for hundreds of millions in tax relief and government grants.

Many of those jobs have already been created and currently employ people, Leddy wrote. But the number of auto jobs Whitmer touts also includes thousands that do not currently exist. Those promised by GM, for instance, will require breaking ground on a new plant, Leddy wrote. (Emphasis added)

But for the watchdog media, you might believe it when Whitmer says Michigan has created 25,000 auto jobs since January 2019.

Hendrickson rates Whitmer’s claim “Mostly False,” as “thousands of those jobs haven’t been created yet, and employment data shows those added haven’t made up for job losses in Michigan’s auto industry.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.