ROMNEY’S FUZZY JOBS MATH: On May 14 the Obama campaign launched a new ad and website attacking Mitt Romney’s record as a “job destroyer” while he ran the private equity firm Bain Capital. The Romney campaign responded that “Mitt Romney helped create more jobs in his private sector experience and more jobs as Governor of Massachusetts than President Obama has for the entire nation.”

These claims deserve serious scrutiny. According to the Associated Press, Massachusetts added 24,400 net jobs while Romney was governor, and the state ranked forty-seventh out of fifty in job growth during that time. The number of new jobs Romney presided over at Bain has varied widely according to his own estimates. When he ran against Ted Kennedy in 1994, Romney said he created 10,000 jobs while at Bain. In the current presidential campaign, Romney has claimed he created “over 100,000 new jobs,” “tens of thousands of jobs” and “thousands of jobs” while at Bain. It is impossible to know if any of these figures is accurate—every time the Romney campaign is pressed on the details, the number of jobs created seems to decrease.

Indeed, Romney’s job claims “simply do not pass the laugh test,” wrote Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler in January. He gave Romney’s “over 100,000 new jobs” claim “three Pinocchios,” which represents a “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.” Another Post analysis found that Romney “offered no definitive proof that Bain added more jobs than it eliminated while Romney headed the firm.”

Indeed, the jobs Romney supposedly created included the growth of three companies Bain helped start or grow: Staples, Sports Authority and Domino’s. But Romney is only counting gross, not net, jobs created, which is not how jobs are calculated in the real economy. “It is utterly ridiculous for Romney to cherry-pick three companies where jobs were gained and ignore other companies where there were job losses while he was at Bain,” says Michael Linden, director of tax and budget policy at the Center for American Progress. “If you applied that same standard to Obama, you would have millions—if not tens of millions—of new jobs created during Obama’s term.”

Romney’s criticism of Obama’s jobs record is lacking crucial context. The country lost 4.2 million private sector jobs during Obama’s first term as a result of the economic crisis the president inherited. Since early 2010, the economy has added 4.25 million private sector jobs, resulting in a net gain of such jobs for the first time during the Obama administration. (The public sector has lost 607,000 jobs since Obama took office.)

These figures don’t mean that Obama has an ideal record when it comes to jobs. But Romney’s jobs record, to the extent that we even know what it is, is hard to take seriously, no matter what the candidate says.   ARI BERMAN