“Facts Matter” from the Dec. 12, 2012, edition of “Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer.”
In tonight’s Facts Matters segment, the numbers are flying fast and furious about the right-to-work bill signed yesterday in Michigan. Take a look at this claim yesterday from Fox News:
“As of October, the average unemployment rate in right-to-work states is 6.9 percent, but 7.6 percent unemployment in non–right-to-work states. The national rate for that month, 7.9 percent. Very interesting numbers.”
They are interesting numbers. First, because they find that the average of 6.9 percent and 7.6 percent is somehow 7.9 percent, without bothering to explain how they got to those numbers — numbers that anybody can see just don’t make sense.
But we did the hard work and looked at the raw data, and it seems they made the rookie mistake of averaging the state percentages without accounting for the different sizes of the states involved, which just goes to show you how careful you have to be in understanding the numbers you’re using.
But that’s not the end of the story, because when we did crunch those numbers, we, too, found that non–right-to-work states have higher unemployment than states with right-to-work laws.
And so the question here is that of causation, or lack thereof.
Every reasonable economist will tell you that it’s nearly impossible to isolate the impact of right-to-work laws on a state’s job growth versus all of the other factors that can affect employment.
However, one thing the numbers can prove is that right-to-work laws have a negative affect on the annual salary of workers in that state. According to the Economic Policy Institute, wages for full-time, full-year union and nonunion workers in right-to-work states are about $1,500 less annually than a similar worker in a non–right-to-work state.
I know proponents of right-to-work may not want to think so, but Facts Matter.