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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Beware the flying numbers

It's Halloween weekend, the last before Election Day, and numbers are flying around like crazy. Polls. Jobs lost. World Series odds. Someone is probably making book on Brett Favre's cranky ankle.

But some important numbers are out that can provide important context in the race for the Corner Office. Because they rely on nine months of activity and not selective one-month fluctuations. And they show that while things aren't perfect in Massachusetts, we are a better off than a lot of other states.

The Massachusetts economy expanded at a 3.7 percent rate in the third quarter,, down from a high of 6 percent growth in the first three months. That's considerably better than the national growth rate of 2 percent for the third quarter.

And it provides important context to the cherry-picked economic data being tossed around by a so-called fiscal expert named Charlie Baker. He's on TV right now with a commercial taking aim at a one-month job loss data point, claiming it somehow tells the full story.

Not surprising, economists who do this stuff for a living disagree:
“It’s a feast-or-famine recovery,’’ [UMass-Dartmouth professor Michael] Goodman said. “It is still largely concentrated in those sectors of the economy considered white collar, while manufacturing and construction workers are continuing to suffer.’’
That reality is what makes the one-month job loss figure attractive to Baker, who hopes to reach the manufacturing and construction workers who vote Republican more and more these days.

Let's also take a broader view of Massachusetts and the nation as a whole.
“We’re coming off a period of very rapid growth, and it’s slowing,’’ said Alan Clayton-Matthews, a Northeastern University economics professor who analyzes a variety of data to estimate the state’s economic growth for the UMass journal. “But it’s still stronger than the US, and I expect we’re going to be growing faster than the US over the next six months."
Good numbers to keep in mind when you pore over the polling data that, for all it's recent sways, remains consistent. Deval Patrick has steered a pretty straight course over very troubled waters.

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