Bearish Job Numbers Undercut McAuliffe Bull

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By Kenric Ward | Virginia Bureau

The Obama administration is throwing cold water on Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s claim that business is heating up in Virginia as job numbers show a different story.

Two days after McAuliffe boasted the state’s economy was “roaring” under his leadership, the U.S. Labor Department reported that Virginia suffered the fifth-biggest job loss (7,600) of any state from February to March.

Taking a longer view, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that Virginia unemployment has barely budged in the McAuliffe era. The jobless rate was 5.3 percent in March 2014 and 4.8 percent in March 2015 – a year-long performance that ranked 32nd of 50 states.

The 4.8 percent rate ties Virginia with Maine and Massachusetts for 19th place nationally.


 McAuliffe’s misleading claims on Virginia economy


“The governor’s claims are downright fraudulent,” said Pete Snyder, a Northern Virginia businessman who sought the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor in 2013.

“This state’s economy is not roaring — it’s gasping for air as the governor bloviates and fabricates,” Snyder told in an interview.

Both Snyder and McAuliffe lay claim to the title “job creator.”

Snyder works through his private investment firm, Disruptor Capital, to raise funds for new and expanding ventures. One notable success story is the Independent Journal Review, a fast-growing online news, politics and culture forum.

McAuliffe, by contrast, taps tax dollars to lure companies with special grants and incentives. In other words: picking winners and losers with government subsidies while promoting a “welcoming” message.

Snyder says lower overall taxes and less government interference would level the playing field for all comers. Tweaking both the Democratic governor and the Republican-control General Assembly, Snyder said, “We used to be business friendly, but we’ve allowed regulations to take over.”

Many Virginia politicians, including McAuliffe, agree that the Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) tax is both arbitrary and abusive. Yet it remains on the books, pumping billions of dollars into local and state coffers annually.

Another regulation is Virginia’s “Certificate of Need” requirement that effectively rations new medical equipment. Matt Mitchell, a researcher at the free market-oriented Mercatus Center, said the state’s restrictions unnecessarily inflate costs for hospitals and patients alike.

“I’m nervous about Virginia’s future,” Snyder says. “While I applaud (McAuliffe’s) efforts, the governor is an abject failure about telling the truth about this state’s business environment.”


350 lost jobs due to Sweet Briar closure


McAuliffe has an immediate opportunity to use his bully pulpit to avert 350 layoffs at Sweet Briar College. The Roanoke Times nudged the governor for failing to make even one phone call.

The newspaper suggested these talking points might persuade the school’s Board of Directors to reverse its decision to close the women’s college, or at least buy more time. The conversation might go something like this:

“You’re a private school. You can do what you want. You could decide to close even if you’re rolling in cash. But you’ve said you’re closing because you’re running out of money, so you want to pay off all your bills now so you have something left to put into a scholarship fund. That’s admirable.

“But there’s been a lot of testimony that the college might not have to close — that the college has had a pretty antiquated fund-raising effort over the years — and you’ve never truly asked alumnae to pony up to save the college. Maybe it’s too late now; I don’t know. All I know is that jobs are at stake and I care about jobs.”

Does one of the nation’s most historic liberal arts colleges count in the jobs equation?

Kenric Ward is a national reporter for and chief of its Virginia Bureau. Contact him at (571) 319-9824.