Mitt Romney's latest ad says that President Obama's economic policies have failed, and that Romney's policies would create 350,000 new jobs in North Carolina.
Let's assume he means in his first four-year term. That would be 87,500 new jobs a year. That's a lot of jobs.
First, let's look at what's happened since January 2009, when the president took office. There were 4,174,597 people working in North Carolina, according to statistics kept by the state Employment Security Commission. (Seasonally adjusted)
In July of this year, the number had grown to 4,202,281. So, looking at it this way, the North Carolina economy employs 27,684 more people. If you want to give the president the benefit of the doubt, and say that he needed time to get his policies into place before they would show results, let's start at January 2010. The state had more than 100,000 fewer people working at that point compared with the year earlier, so the base line was 4,070,722. Between then and now, the state economy has 131,559 more employed people. So that was growth of around 52,000 employees a year.
Romney says he can add 87,500 jobs each year in his first term. That may be doable, but it would be a heck of a thing. In the '90s, when the state was growing gangbusters, the number of employees grew an average of 65,000 annually.
One of the problems in North Carolina is that globalization has decimated manufacturing. The number of people employed in manufacturing in North Carolina has dropped since 2000 from 759,026 to 435,220.
Now, a big chunk of that happened early in the last decade, the continuation of the offshoring of jobs in textiles and other traditional North Carolina industries. But another big batch of manufacturing job losses happened in the recession. 2008 was an awful year for manufacturing in North Carolina.
If there is any good news, it is that the manufacturing losses have seemed to stabilize the last couple of years. Another piece of good news - maybe, depending on your point of view - is that increased natural gas production through fracking could bring more manufacturing jobs here. If you are against fracking, then this probably won't appeal to you, but it is possible that abundant, low-cost energy is a way to bring jobs back from overseas. One joker in the deck is that we don't really know yet how much natural gas can be extracted through fracking in NC, and won't know for a while.