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Salt Lake City is No. 1 in the nation for job creation well, not exactly.
Throughout the 2015 political campaign, Mayor Ralph Becker has boasted that Salt Lake City is the U.S. job-growth leader. His campaign website points to a number of publications highlighting the capital city's successes.
Among them is a March 18 Gallup report that lists Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City as the top job creators. But Gallup looked at more than the city. Its report was based on the entire Salt Lake metropolitan statistical area that includes all of Salt Lake County, Tooele County and Summit County, according to Art Swift, managing editor at Gallup.
Becker's website also points to an Entrepreneur magazine report that ranks Salt Lake City as No. 1 for startups. But that data also was collected for the entire metropolitan statistical area.
In addition, the mayor cites the Pew Research Center as evidence that Salt Lake City is fifth in "Best Performing Cities." But that report, too, was based on data from the entire statistical area.
It's clear that Salt Lake City has made impressive strides since the Great Recession of 2008. Strong sales-tax receipts and other barometers of a surging economy are present.
Nonetheless, job creation across Salt Lake County 15 other cities as well as the unincorporated area is not the same as job creation in Salt Lake City.
But Becker's campaign manager, Matt Lyon, said the mayor's representations are not disingenuous.
"Salt Lake is the capital city. When Gallup or others refer to Salt Lake as being number one, it's a description that points to the capital city as being the epicenter of that job creation and economic success," Lyon said. "Our core is prosperous by any measure and plays a key role in the region's success."
The campaign said Becker was not available for comment for this story.
Becker's challenger, Jackie Biskupski, said that the mayor's characterizations of various reports is "unfortunate."
"As public figures, we have to do our due diligence to present information that is factual," she said. "From the very beginning [of the campaign] I've been critiquing the mayor on economic development. His statements just don't ring true."
James Wood, an economist at the University of Utah's Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, said he's not surprised Salt Lake County is doing well in job creation because Utah has been a national leader in that category for several years. Of Utah's 1.3 million jobs, some 640,000 are in Salt Lake County. The county's total includes about 250,000 Salt Lake City jobs.
But Becker likely will not pay a price for political sleight of hand, said Tim Chambless, a University of Utah professor of political science who also is affiliated with the Hinckley Institute of Politics.
"Even if it's not quite accurate, it's a generalized truth that has not been [directly] challenged by his opponent," Chambless said. "Becker is going to spin the positives and overlook the negatives."
The candidates, who already have had a dozen debates since the Aug. 11 primary, will face off again Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Library. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by The Salt Lake Tribune.