Conservative claim of manipulated unemployment numbers decried

Posted on October 5, 2012 by

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Within minutes after the Dept. of Labor released the September unemployment numbers this morning, Republicans and conservatives made the accusation that the numbers were doctored.

The figures showed the unemployment rate dropped to 7.8% from 8.1% and jobs created for the month at 114,000.

The first tweeter commenting apparently was former G.E. CEO Jack Welch (pictured): “Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers.” Later, he said on Fox News, “I wasn’t kidding.”

Rep. Allan West (R-FL) this morning quickly said he agreed with Welch. We’ve cited West here before for insulting comments.

Then the conservative floodgates opened, agreeing with Welch. Several Fox News hosts and personalities chimed in but that’s no surprise.

A labor department official  rebuffed the claim: “No political appointee is involved in the collecting, processing and analyzing of the data.” That was Thomas Nardone, the associate commissioner for employment and unemployment statistics.

Conn Carroll of the Washington Examiner had a different take: I don’t think BLS cooked numbers. I think a bunch of Dems  lied about getting jobs. That would have the same effect.”

Betsey Stevenson is among the economists saying the numbers could not have been massaged: Economist Betsey Stevenson: The former chief economist at the Department of Labor, wrote: “Anyone who thinks that political folks can manipulate the unemployment data are completely ignorant about how BLS works & how data are compiled.”

Another economist, Lawrence Mishel, who heads the Economic Policy Institute, wrote, “It is simply outrageous to make such a claim and echoes the worrying general distrust of facts that seems to have swept segments of our nation….

“BLS is a highly professional agency with dozens of people involved in the tabulation and analysis of these data. The idea that the data are manipulated is just completely implausible. Moreover, the data trends reported are clearly in line with previous monthly reports and other economic indicators (such as GDP)….”

He said the unemployment number could rise next month because of volatility in the statistics….

“All in all,” he concluded,  “There was nothing particularly strange about this month’s jobs reports, and certainly nothing to spur accusations of outright fraud.”

All those who are challenging the numbers, claiming they were manipulated, are also questioning the integrity of those who work in the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. These are people isolated from politics who use the same system every week.  That system is not perfect. Some numbers could be wrong. But it’s the system we have right now. Kindly respect those who gather the figures, please.