RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina Republican Phil Berger began his seventh term as Senate leader by bringing up the economic progress the state has made during that time.

More jobs. Less unemployment. Fewer people in poverty.

But do those numbers add up — and where should the credit go for them?

THE CLAIMS: Berger, a Rockingham County Republican, said in his opening-day remarks last week that “since 2011 more than 643,000 new jobs have been created. Our unemployment rate has dropped dramatically, the rate of citizens in poverty has been reduced, and thanks to historic reductions in tax rates, North Carolinians are keeping more of their hard-earned money.”

THE FACTS: Let’s take those statistics one by one.

— The 643,000 new jobs came from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data covering non-farm job creation from 2011-21, Berger spokeswoman Lauren Horsch said.

— The unemployment rate in the state was at 10.4 percent in January 2011, compared to 3.8 percent in October 2022, according to BLS data. But it was hardly a straight line from then to now: It spiked to 14.2 percent during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

— About 13 percent of North Carolinians lived in poverty in 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey. That rate was at 16.4 percent during the five-year period between 2011-15.

— The state income tax rate is a flat 4.75 percent for the 2023 tax year. It was up to 7.75 percent of income above $60,000 as recently as 2013.

So each of those numbers hold up.

But is Berger justified in giving the Republicans credit for them?

Mike Walden, an economist from North Carolina State University, declined to directly agree or disagree with Berger’s position, saying that “a number of factors have helped (the state) become one of the fastest-growing states in new business locations and jobs.”

Those include a cost of living that’s generally lower than many states, its right-to-work status that results in less power for labor unions, its numerous highly regarded colleges and universities, climate and low corporate and personal state income taxes.

John Quinterno, a professor of the practice at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, says Berger’s argument isn’t entirely a fair one because it leaves out some key details and context.

Namely, the time frame coincides with the low point of the Great Recession in 2010, and it brushes over the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the economy and the growth that was fueled by “incredible federal interventions.”

“Those comments really are missing a lot of very important context and when you put that context in there, I think the story changes and offers a much more subdued picture of what has happened in the state over the past 10-12 years related to its labor market,” Quinterno said. “Without all that context, all you kind of end up with is a sort of numbers salad that doesn’t necessarily explain what is going on or what has gone on across North Carolina as a whole.”

Quinterno also says Berger conflates jobs and living standards, pointing out that during the 2010s, when adjusted for inflation, the rise in personal income in North Carolina essentially tracked with the rise nationally.

“So there was no real divergence between what happened here and the overall national trend,” he said. “So to try to attribute that to some of these tax changes, I don’t think you really can make that attribution.”