Our opinion: Salt with numbers

Ask any candidate for public office – above, say, the level of county line officers – what their highest priority will be if they are elected and they will say “jobs,” “job creation,” “employment,” or any of a number of other related terms.

And, whether they are old hands at the game or political neophytes, they will use numbers to their advantage, numbers they have little control over except to spin.

Here’s a for instance.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is 6.9 percent, the lowest in five years. Good news for Gov. Tom Corbett, who is just initiating his re-election campaign, right? Well, not so much, since the declining jobless rate is more related to a shrinking labor force than job creation. According to preliminary numbers, Pennsylvania’s labor force shrank faster last year while its rate of job growth was among the lowest in the country.

But was any of this Corbett’s fault? Well, maybe, but probably not much.

Local leaders are often painted poorly on the economy, when national factors are more responsible for economic trends than what can be controlled locally, even on a state level.

Still, it will give Corbett’s opponents something to crow about in response to Corbett’s predictable crowing that the unemployment rate has dropped on his watch.

He’ll also point out that he made good on a campaign promise four years ago and wrested control of the state budget without raising taxes – well, except for a big increase in the gasoline tax: more debate ahead.

The point is voters should take a deeper look at the economic prognostications and promises of candidates than just their pronouncements.

In the world of spinning, economic numbers may be the easiest to set in motion, and the issue most likely to resonate with voters.

So, in the coming months we predict you’ll hear a lot of them.