Wednesday, December 11, 2013
“Maine’s unemployment rate dropped from 7.3 percent in 1995 to 3.1 percent in 2000, the lowest rate since World War II.”
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– Senate candidate Angus King’s “record” Web page
The statistics here are OK, but they don't reflect yearly averages like you probably expect. They're carefully cherry-picked to pull the highest and lowest months out of the respective years, painting an exaggerated picture of the drop. The reference to World War II is correct.
The average unemployment rate in 1995 was a percentage point and a half lower than King's stated figure. In 2000, it was a little more than 3.1 percent, but it was the lowest in Maine since 1945, the war's last year.
Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data said Maine's statewide unemployment rate was 7.3 percent in January 1995. But over that year, the average unemployment rate was far lower -- 5.8 percent. Much of the drop was fueled by August, September and October of that year, when the rate dipped below 5 percent.
The BLS data shows King's 3.1 percent figure is close to the 2000 average -- 3.3 percent. The unemployment rate was 3.1 percent in both May and November of 2000.
Data provided by the Maine Department of Labor shows that in 1945, the last year of World War II, Maine's unemployment rate was 1.6 percent. When you look at older state data with BLS information, you can't find a better year than 2000 since then.
While King's claim on the dip from 1995 to 2000 is right, his campaign could more accurately spin the unemployment rate over his two terms this way: The annual average rate fell for the first five full years of his administration, from 5.8 percent in 1995 to 3.3 percent in 2000.
But after that, it jumped up, ending up at 4.4 percent in 2002. That's still better than the United States as a whole over that period. Nationally, the American over-16 population's annual rate went from 5.6 percent to 4 percent from 1995 to 2000. By 2002, the rate spiked to 5.8 percent.
Verdict: The numbers are real. Our only problem with them is that they don't reflect average yearly rates. But Maine's average unemployment rate in 2000 was the lowest since 1945.
We rate this statement mostly true.
Staff Writer Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 621-5632 or at: