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Mathern, Hoeven spar on job numbers

BISMARCK -- Democratic-NPL gubernatorial candidate Sen. Tim Mathern says Gov. John Hoeven's claim in a campaign ad to have created 30,000 new jobs while in office is "wrong and misleading."

Hoeven's campaign manager accused Mathern of "resorting to old-style attack politics" and referred to Job Service information backing the governor's assertions. Don Larson said Job Service reported in March that the average employment in North Dakota was 357,800 in 2007 compared to 327,700 in 2000.

The state Job Service director is a Hoeven appointee.

Mathern said, there has been a continuation of outmigration from the state since Hoeven took office at the end of 2000. And, he said, unemployment went up between 2000 and 2006.

"So, if people have been leaving the state and unemployment has been rising, something else other than a growing workforce must explain Gov. Hoeven's numbers," Mathern said. "The sad fact is, many of the new jobs Hoeven refers to are low-wage jobs that are being taken as second and in some cases even third jobs by people who can't afford the basic costs of living with just one job."

Both candidates quote the state Data Center.

Mathern said the Data Center reports the state has "one of the highest percentages of people working two and more jobs to support their families."

He said North Dakotans are hit hard by rising gasoline and health care costs and property taxes and "the governor has failed to address these spiraling costs," so people take second or third jobs to make ends meet.

But Larson points to a January Data Center report that North Dakotans are holding fewer multiple jobs, with 8.4 percent of employed residents working more than one job in 2006, compared to 9.9 percent in 2005. Richard Rathge, Data Center director, said in there's a consistent decline over the past three years in North Dakotans holding multiple jobs. Where the state was once among the top two states with multiple job holders, it is now eighth.

The Data Center's April population bulletin reported 642,200 North Dakotans in April 2000 and 639,715 in 2007. The lowest during the seven years was 633,159 in 2003.

Janell Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Dickinson Press.