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Happy days are here again in South Carolina … or so it would appear.

After an extended spell in double digits, the Palmetto State’s widely watched unemployment rate has declined to 7.1 percent – its lowest level in years. Meanwhile S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley – who brands herself on the campaign trail as the state’s “Jobs Governor” – has touted the announcement of more than 40,000 new positions since taking office.

Good news, right?

Not exactly …

First, South Carolina’s shrinking unemployment rate isn’t the result of an influx of new jobs – nor is it attributable to new hiring by existing businesses.  Why is the jobless rate dropping, then?  Easy – it’s the result of tens of thousands of working age South Carolinians leaving the workforce.  In fact the last time we checked South Carolina’s labor participation rate stood at a record low of 58.2 percent – down from 60.9 percent in June 2011.

That’s nearly five percent below the national rate of 63 percent – which itself is hovering at thirty-five year lows.

You will never hear Nikki Haley mention this statistic.  Nor will you ever hear her mention the number of jobs South Carolina has lost since she took office (her administration doesn’t track that figure).  Nor will her administration ever provide an accounting for the billions of dollars spent on taxpayer-funded “economic development” – subsidies which often fail to produce a return on investment.

See, if Haley mentioned those things people would pretty soon realize the employment situation in the Palmetto State is nowhere near as rosy as she would have you believe … which makes it not unlike our state’s income situation.  Or its academic situation.

Anyway …

In the latest blow to befall the “Jobs Governor,” the Associated Press – usually a reliable mouthpiece for pro-Haley propaganda – has published a report calling into question some of the governor’s recent jobs announcements.

Buried within the AP article were several doozies … including a quote from Haley’s Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt in which he admits his agency doesn’t follow up on the billions of dollars it doles out each year to select companies (read more on this infinitely corrupt process here).

“Would it be helpful for us to be calling them every year for the next five years to see how many people they employ this year, as opposed to waiting for them to meet their contract? I don’t know that that would be a good use of state resources,” Hitt told the wire service.

But here’s the truly devastating line for Haley …

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley touts that more than 40,000 jobs have been announced during her tenure, but no one can say how many of those planned jobs have become reality. Many employers won’t fill those jobs for years. Some plans will simply fall through – and already have in at least three cases.

In other words, take all those taxpayer-subsidized announcements with an ocean of salt.

South Carolina Democrats – who have been effectively challenging Haley’s narrative on jobs – pounced on the AP report.

“As usual, Nikki Haley only cares about what things look like rather than what they are,” S.C. Democratic Party spokeswoman Kristin Sosanie said.  “That’s a very disturbing and very sad fact as the people South Carolina have seen her cover-up a hacking, cover-up tuberculosis outbreak, and now paint a happy picture on 40,000 jobs created that haven’t panned out– all while families in South Carolina struggle.”

This isn’t the first time Haley has been challenged by the media on her job creation numbers. Back in July 2011, the AP busted Haley taking credit for positions that “were announced before she took office” as well as hundreds of jobs that were “the fruit of a deal that Haley tried to derail.”

Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey did not immediately respond to our request for comment regarding the latest AP report.

Job creation has been the centerpiece of Haley’s reelection bid – and is expected to dominate her paid media efforts as the 2014 campaign heats up.  But Democrats have an equally (if not more) compelling counter-narrative on that front – assuming they are able to compete with Haley and her supporters financially.

Oh … and offer some sort of policy alternative to the governor’s crony capitalist philosophy.

If they can do those two things, then the rematch between Haley and S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Camden) could get interesting.  If not, Haley will win in walk – even if her “jobs” record is nothing but hot air.