Leading up to the vice presidential debate Tuesday, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump touted his running mate’s record of lowering unemployment in Indiana — where he is governor — by 113,826.
Pence also touted this record during the debate, and also slammed Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s record, citing the fact that unemployment increased by 179,249.
But the tenures of the two former governors do not lend well to an apples-to-apples comparison.
The numbers are correct — Pence has seen growth in employment during his time as governor of Indiana, while unemployment increased under Kaine in Virginia.
.@timkaine oversaw unemployment INCREASE by 179,249 while @mike_pence DECREASED unemployment in Indiana by 113,826. #BigLeagueTruth pic.twitter.com/ksg9MQjA6R
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2016
But using raw numbers is misleading, considering that the population of Virginia is nearly 2 million larger than that of Indiana, but the unemployment rates seem to paint a similar picture.
From the time Kaine came into office, January 2006, to the time he left, January 2010, the unemployment rate in Virginia went from 3.2% to 7.4%.
On the other hand, from the time Pence came into office in January 2013 to today (Pence is still in office), the unemployment rate in Indiana has fallen from 8.4% to 4.6%.
But the numbers leave out the larger context: the economic landscape during the two terms. Kaine left office soon after the worst recession since the Great Depression, while Pence took over well into the recovery from the same recession.
Governors certainly have the ability to affect their states’ economies, but they have little influence over macroeconomic forces that crippled huge swaths of the world economy.
Put another way, this would be like saying today that Ford is a better company the General Motors by comparing GM’s historic $30.9 billion loss in 2008 compared to Ford’s $7.4 billion profit in 2015. Sure, they are both car companies in the same markets, but there were completely different macroeconomic factors at play during one time period vs. the other.
Additionally, Indiana’s unemployment rate was higher than Virginia’s during Kaine’s term, went higher than Virginia’s during the recession, and remains higher than Virginia’s today.
But the two states’ economies are very different — 29% of Indiana’s GDP is derived from manufacturing, compared with just 6% of Virginia’s GDP. On the other hand, 19% of Virginia’s economy comes from the government sector, compared with only 9% of Indiana’s GDP. Sector-based forces can affect employment, so comparing two states with vastly different economic makeups is hard.
Simply put: There are plenty of ways to attack Kaine’s record, but making this comparison is not one of them.