President López Obrador’s claim yesterday that the number of jobs created in the first quarter of this year was the highest in 10 years was based on creative accounting. In short, it was false.
The president told reporters at his morning press conference that data from the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) showed that 269,143 jobs were created in the January-March quarter.
The figure cited by López Obrador is correct, but in order to make the assertion that the first-quarter job numbers are the best in 10 years, the government used a figure that represents average job growth in the first three months of each year over the past decade.
In other words, job growth figures for the first quarter of every year between 2009 and 2018 were added then divided by 10, giving an average of 259,744, which is 9,000 fewer jobs than the number recorded between January and March this year.
However, the number of jobs created in the first quarters of each of the past four years as well as 2012 and 2010 was actually higher than this year.
If the first three months of 2009 – when 138,291 jobs were lost as a result of an international economic downturn – are excluded from the equation, average first-quarter job growth over the past decade is in fact 13% higher than that recorded from January through March.
This year’s figure for March was 48,515, the worst March for job creation in 10 years, and 46% less than the same month last year.
Valeria Moy, general director of the think tank México ¿cómo vamos?, said in an interview that she believed that the use of an average figure to support López Obrador’s claim was “wrong,” although not a “serious” offense.
“. . . I think that averages provide information but they [also] deceive a little bit,” Moy said, adding that they can be manipulated “according to what you want” to show.
Late yesterday afternoon, IMSS issued a statement saying that the job growth figures hadn’t included 106,625 people who have started formal jobs under the auspices of the apprenticeship scheme known as Youths Building the Future.
However, even if that number is added to the figure cited by López Obrador, the total still falls short of the 377,694 jobs created in the first three months of 2017, the veritably best first-quarter period for employment growth in the past 10 years.