When the U.S. Bureau of Statistics (BLS) released the September Jobs Report on Friday, that loud shriek you heard was Tea Party “conservatives” running for the shelter of their tinfoil hats.
“I agree with former GE CEO Jack Welch, Chicago style politics is at work here,” Florida GOP Rep. Allen West wrote on his Facebook page. “Somehow by manipulation of data we are all of a sudden below 8 percent unemployment, a month from the Presidential election. This is Orwellian to say the least and representative of Saul Alinsky tactics from the book “Rules for Radicals”- a must read for all who want to know how the left strategize . Trust the Obama administration? Sure, and the spontaneous reaction to a video caused the death of our Ambassador……and pigs fly.”
West was referring to the tweet that Jack Welch, a key Romney supporter, fired off after the release of the report.
Later in the day, Welch said on MSNBC, “I have no evidence to prove that, I just raised the question.” But he stood by his statement.
NPR gives a good overview of the report and the response below.
“Either the Federal Reserve, which has its fingers on the pulse of every element of the economy, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics manufacturing survey report are grievously wrong, or the number used to calculate the unemployment rate are wrong, or worse manipulated,” Americans for Limited Government declared in a press release. “Given that these numbers conveniently meet Obama’s campaign promises one month before the election, the conclusions are obvious.”
The group’s president, Rick Manning, quipped that Obama must have hired “infamous Iraqi Information Minister Baghdad Bob to calculate the unemployment rate. Anyone who takes this unemployment report serious is either naïve or a paid Obama campaign adviser.”
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said it was “ludicrous” to suggest the data had been manipulated. The data are compiled by career employees — not political appointees — who work under tight security to avoid political interference.
Keith Hall, a former commissioner with the BLS told NPR that it would be very difficult to manipulate that numbers as some conservatives have suggested. The BLS has a long history of insulating itself from political influence.
“There are a lot of people who are involved in collecting and compiling this data,” Hall said. “To really manipulate the numbers—as far as I’m concerned—it would be very very difficult.”
Back in September, Governor Romney and his supporters had no problem with the jobs report figures because they showed a weak jobs picture. Romney said on September 7th:
“After 43 straight months of unemployment above 8%, it is clear that President Obama just hasn’t lived up to his promises and his policies haven’t worked. We aren’t better off than they were four years ago.”
Well, those numbers have changed due to the revisions for July and August adding an additional 86,000 jobs to the picture. The revisions were due to the delay in reporting of new hiring by employers over the summer months.
“This is huge,” Justin Wolfers, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Michigan said. Economists had spent much of the past few months worried that the economy had slowed. It turns out that the data had slowed, and the economy hadn’t.”
So regardless of all the shrieking noises that Romney supporters are making about funny math, and manipulated numbers, the fact remains that over the past three months our economy has continued to grow at a healthy and steady pace. If the statistics from the BLS were good enough for Romney and his supporters a month ago, they are certainly good enough today. If the Obama administration wanted to play with the numbers they wouldn’t wait till the month before the election to make the change; and they would certainly have made them look a lot better than they are.
Finally, economists warn with every report to not look at one month’s data in isolation. What really matters is the trend over time. That trend shows that our economy IS recovering from the worst economic recession in a generation. That recovery is slow and steady. Mitt Romney keeps focusing on a loss of 600,000 manufacturing jobs as an Obama failure, while neglecting the fact that 4.5 million manufacturing jobs were lost during the two terms of President George W. Bush.
In this NPR report Melissa Block talks with Justin Wolfers about what types of jobs the U.S. economy has added in the recovery. In the first minute and a half of the interview Wolfers calls out the funny math Romney uses to support his claims about the loss in manufacturing jobs.
“Boy that’s some tricky math right there,” Wolfers said. Over the past three years manufacturing has been on a pretty strong growth trend.”
Hmm, maybe this type of reporting explains why Romney wants to cut support for public broadcasting. Listen to the entire interview here.