300 jobs created in Boston
The above statistic was used in both our press release for our Questions for Boston’s 2009 Mayoral Candidates Project and by moderator Jon Keller in the last debate (see transcript here, I don’t know the site and cannot vouch for overall accuracy).
That number is based on information provided on the state’s Division of Unemployment Assistance website (see here) that utilizes information from the federal Local Area Unemployment Statistics Project. I used that website to get a monthly number for the number of employed Boston residents from 1990 to 2009. (see the raw data here)
Taking the low water mark of 1990 – September — and subtracting that from May 2009 (which was the most current available at the time I did the calculation), you get an increase of 381 Boston residents employed. 381 is different from 300 and I regret the imprecision. The point remains however that there has not been a significant increase in the number of employed Bostonians since 1990. Pair that with an increase in overall population during that stretch and I think its an interesting story.
It is possible to contest this figure. The data is based on surveys, not an absolute count. I’ve been told that DUA doesn’t think the number is the best. If the DUA puts out a number designated as the “Employed” portion of the Boston labor force, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to make of it other than take it at face value.
Semantics are important here — this number represents their estimate of the Boston labor force that is employed. Note that some of these folks work outside the city. Conversely, using the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (see here) is a way to measure the number of folks employed in jobs located in Boston. Note that a significant portion of these jobs are filled by people living outside Boston.
Both measures are important and different. My point of view (not universally shared, I know) is that, in a mayor’s race, the economic well-being of Boston residents is a key measure. And the Local Area Unemployment Statistics are the only source of data, even with qualifications, in this area.
Lastly, I encourage you to look at the raw data linked above. If you move the time period around, you come up with different answers — other dates in 1990 actually result in job losses over time. Picking a 1994 date, when Mayor Menino came into office, results in significant job gains.
Job creation is a complex question and the details of how the question is asked are important. Please comment below if you’d like me to address any issues around these numbers.