Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s low jobless rate has raised the profile of the state’s top political leader.
A recent report in a national business publication ranked Gov. Gary Herbert among the top job-creating governors in the country.
Herbert ranked No. 3 in the report by the Business Journals, trailing only North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple at No. 1 and Texas Gov. Rick Perry at No. 2 — both fellow Republicans.
The study reviewed employment data from all 50 states. However, the five governors who assumed their duties earlier this year were excluded from the study.
Herbert took office in August 2009, following the departure of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who left to become ambassador to China in the Obama administration. During that time, the state has added approximately 98,000 new jobs, an annual rate of 2.61 percent compared with 1.53 percent nationally.
The study analyzed private-sector employment levels in each state during the tenure of its current governor, using seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The score for each governor was based on a comparison of the annual growth rate for his or her state and the corresponding figure for the other 49 states.
North Dakota, for example, has dramatically outperformed the rest of the country since Dalrymple assumed office. The state’s private-sector growth rate of 7.32 percent per year was 5.38 percentage points ahead of the collective pace of 1.98 points for the rest of the nation over the same span. As a result, Dalrymple has the strongest job-creation record of any of the nation's governors, according to the study.
Among runners-up in the national rankings, Perry scored 1.28 percentage points above the national average, followed by Herbert at 1.08 percentage points.
Experts often debate about the ability of any governor to manipulate a state's economy. But the study reflects a basic fact of political life where governors routinely take credit for economic growth, regardless of their actual level of involvement, and are typically blamed for economic declines.
According to the report, Herbert described himself as "fiercely focused on growing Utah's economy" and highlighted his role when he established the goal of creating 100,000 jobs in 1,000 days. Last week, he announced that the state had added more than 63,000 new jobs at the halfway point of the targeted timeline.
Three governors at the bottom of the list also are Republicans. The lowest-ranking leaders included Wyoming Gov. Matthew Mead. Private-sector employment grew 0.81 percent per year since he took office in January 2011, falling 1.17 percentage points national average of 1.98 points.
There was a two-way tie for the position just above Mead, with Maine Gov. Paul LePage and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez both registering scores of 1.07 percentage points below the national average.
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