By Ken Sagar
It’s no secret — many hardworking Iowa families are struggling. That is why it is so disheartening that Gov. Terry Branstad’s administration has responded to Iowans’ calls for change with sleight of hand.
The governor and his cronies are playing political games with important employment information.
Since reassuming office, Branstad’s administration has failed to create better conditions or develop better job training and preparation programs for workers. He has limited access for job assistance services by closing dozens of Workforce Development offices across the state. Rather than taking real steps to create jobs, he and his administration have hidden the problem by developing a manipulated statistic that can return inflated employment numbers.
The statistic is called “gross over-the-month employment gains.” In its attempt to view Iowa’s employment problem through rose-colored glasses, the Branstad administration has added this statistic to the Iowa Workforce Development’s monthly jobs total reporting.
This new number only counts jobs added. This gives a flawed idea of the true jobs situation, as it doesn’t account for jobs lost during the same duration. Think about it: You are hired for a temporary job, and a few weeks later your temporary position is no longer needed and you are let go. Given the nature of temporary work, this could happen three or four times in a year.
Under Branstad’s fuzzy math, four jobs have been created despite the fact that, at best, only one of these jobs existed at a time.
It is shameful and ultimately damaging to Iowans to waste taxpayers’ money and state officials’ time on this sort of shenanigans.
While running for governor, Branstad pledged to create 200,000 jobs for the state. So far, he has fallen far short. According to figures on the Iowa Workforce Development website, only 7,400 more Iowans had jobs in August than in 2011 when he took office.
This summer, Branstad gave a speech at an ALEC event where he stated that there are more Iowans working then at any time in the state’s history. Yet an Iowa Workforce Development report does not show the governor’s statement to be true.
This month, the Iowa Accountability Project filed an open records request with Iowa Workforce Development, asking that it make public its conversations with the governor and members of his administration about how this dubious number made its way into state business.
Iowa families deserve a full accounting of employment statistics. But more than that, they deserve real job-creating actions and policies.
Ken Sagar, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. Comments: email@example.com