On Feb. 11th, 2011, former Massachussetts governor and 2008 Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference
. His speech
focused on the economy, and he criticized the Obama administration's policies for failing to create enough jobs.
To illustrate his concerns about the unemployment situation in the U.S., Romney made this claim: "Today there are more men and women out of work in America than there are people working in Canada." We find this statement to be mostly false.
According to the Canadian government's official employment summary
, there were 17.2 million Canadians employed as of January, 2011. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports
that 13.9 million Americans are currently unemployed. This would seem to contradict Romney's statement, but unemployment rates are not so simple.
questioned Romney's campaign about this claim, his spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, pointed to the large number of underemployed Americans, which includes those who work part time but are looking for full-time work. But Romney referred to people who are "out of work," which would exclude people who have some part-time work.
As NewsTrust reviewer Roland Hirsch
points out, the BLS unemployment statistic does not include 2.8 million people who are marginally attached to the work force:
These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.
But even if we included all of these people for the sake of argument, the U.S. unemployment figure would climb to 16.7 million, still 300,000 people short.
Moreover, elsewhere in the speech
, Romney stated that there are 15 million Americans currently unemployed, which is significantly higher than the BLS
statistic but still well short of Canada's employment figure
of 17.2 million.
One problem with Romney's statement, as is often the case in political speeches, is that his wording was not precise. Using the informal phrase "out of work" allowed Romney some flexibility in the interpretation of his claim. Still, we couldn't find statistical evidence to support his comparison, even with a generous interpretation of the official numbers.
Furthermore, many Truthsquad
participants felt that this comparison between the U.S. and Canada was not clearly meaningful or constructive, even if the statistic was plausible. NewsTrust host Glenn LaBauve
put it eloquently:
The population of Canada is 1/10th (34,000,000) of the US population (308,000,000) so if our unemployment rate is near 10% this might be true. But what does it mean? How is it relevant? Why bring it up? How does this in any way make our problem better?
We agree with Glenn that Romney's claim is a rhetorical flourish, not an informative statement. However, his language was just imprecise enough to require us to rule it "Mostly False."
-- Jon Mitchell, on behalf of Truthsquad editors