Job Number Truthers

I guess today is Tinfoil Friday.  Allen West and Jack Welch think the BLS is manipulating unemployment number in response to some Chicago Mafia move to make Obama and the economy look better.  Huhn?  I would think if that was possible they would’ve been doing it all along instead of just suddenly producing a better but still anemic result at the last moment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released an unexpectedly strong monthly jobs report on Friday, finding a dramatic drop in unemployment to 7.8 percent and revised the number of jobs added in July and August up from initial estimates. While for most Americans, the growing economy is good news, conservatives immediately expressed their skepticism in the jobs report’s credibility.

1) Minutes after the report was released, Jack Welch, who famously cooked General Electric’s accounting books when he was CEO, accused President Obama of manipulating the numbers to distract from his debate performance.

This is pretty weird. The jobs report was  straightforward this month.

The controversy, if it’s worth using that word, is over the unemployment rate, which dropped from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent. That’s three-tenths of one percent. That’s what all the fuss is about.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: The data was not, as Jack Welch suggested in a now-infamous tweet, manipulated. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is set up to ensure the White House has no ability to influence it. As labor economist Betsey Stevenson wrote, “anyone who thinks that political folks can manipulate the unemployment data are completely ignorant of how the BLS works and how the data are compiled.” Plus, if the White House somehow was manipulating the data, don’t you think they would have made the payroll number look a bit better than 114,000? No one would have batted an eye at 160,000.

The fact is that there’s not much that needs to be explained here. We’ve seen drops like this — and even drops bigger than this — before. Between July and August the unemployment rate dropped from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent — two-tenths of one percent. November-December of 2011 also saw a .2 percent drop. November-December of 2010 saw a .4 percent drop. This isn’t some incredible aberration. The fact that the unemployment rate broke under the psychologically important 8 percent line is making this number feel bigger to people than it really is.

What’s even odder is that Romney said the report wasn’t “realistic” and actually misstated the reasons for the change in numbers.

Mitt Romney challenged the significance of the drop in the unemployment rate today, arguing that the “real reality” is that the figure declined because “more and more people have just stopped looking for work.”

“There was a report that just came out this morning on job creation this last month,” said Romney at a rally in the battleground state of Virginia. “There were fewer new jobs created this month than last month. And the unemployment rate as you noted this year has come down very, very slowly, but it’s come down nonetheless.”

“The reason it’s come down this year is primarily due to the fact that more and more people have just stopped looking for work,” Romney said. “And if you just dropped out of the work force, if you just give up and say look I can’t go back to work I’m just going to stay home, if you just drop out all together why you’re not longer part of the employment statistics.”

“So it looks like unemployment is getting better, but the truth is, if the same share of people were participating in the workforce today as on the day the president got elected, our unemployment rate would be around 11 percent,” said Romney. “That’s the real reality of what’s happening out there.”

This morning’s jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the nation’s unemployment rate dropped from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent, the first time it’s been below 8 percent in four years. September saw the addition of 114,000 jobs, according to the report, a decrease from the 142,000 that were added in August, and  statistic that Romney emphasized on the trail today.

Yes, random variation is quite suspicious and unrealistic.  Here’s the labor force numbers straight from the report. Romney told an audience the exact opposite had happened.  There is no way he actually read the report.  Well, that or he was lying again.

The civilian labor force rose by 418,000 to 155.1 million in September, while the labor force participation rate was little changed at 63.6 percent. (See table A-1

The best article I’ve seen today explaining the job situation and the Welch Tin Foil hat theory is here at The Atlantic.

A number of conservatives have suggested the 873,000 household figure is wildly implausible, if not an outright conspiracy to help Obama on the part of the BLS. This is nonsense. As Greg Ip of The Economist points out, the employer and household numbers often diverge over the short-term, but they mostly match up over the long-term. And they still do if we look at the past three months. The employer survey showed job gains of 181,000 in July, 141,000 in August and 114,00 in September, for an average gain of 146,000. The household survey showed job losses of 195,000 in July, 119,000 in August, and job gains of 873,000 in September, for an average gain of 186,000. If you can’t see the conspiracy there, well, you just might be mathematically literate.

Wow. Is this the silly season or what?

67 Comments on “Job Number Truthers”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Jack Welch is on Hardball right now. He sounds like he’s about 95 years old.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      He sounds desperate to me.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Or maybe Jack is mad because he’s finally met some numbers he can’t screw with.

      • jawbone says:

        Allan West and Jack Welch thinking alike? Bodes ill for US business…. I mean, seriously, that even a retired titan of industry could be on the same wavelength as West? Wow.

    • Beata says:

      I’m amazed Welch didn’t expire during that interview.

      • RalphB says:

        I watched and was hoping against hope that he would flop over right there. That guy has to be one of the biggest assholes who ever ran a large company.

        • dakinikat says:

          Yup. He should be in jail for all the book cooking and the fraud that GE perpetrated on the defense department under his tutelage. Instead he’s handing out MBA degrees.

      • RalphB says:

        They really should have ripped all the retirement away from him, instead of just a portion of it, for his actions. Guess there’s never justice for the really rich and powerful.

  2. ANonOMouse says:

    “Allen West and Jack Welch think the BLS is manipulating unemployment number in response to some Chicago Mafia move to make Obama and the economy look better. I would think if that was possible they would’ve been doing it all along instead of just suddenly producing a better but still anemic result at the last moment”.

    That’s too much common sense for that crowd. Jack Welch could well be projecting

    This is sort of like the meme that Obama is going to enforce sharia law and turn the U.S. over to radical muslims. My answer is always, He’s been in office 4 years, what has he been waiting on? Re-election? Stupid Asses!!!

    • Beata says:

      Watch out, Mouse. There’s a Muslim-Stalinist reeducation camp coming to a neighborhood near you if Barack Hussein Obama wins in November. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

  3. West and his cohorts don’t understand that you fill out those forms, sign them and they say in legal terms that you will be out of compliance if you don’t provide the information to the government The forms are a bit lengthy and ask a variety of other questions.

    Why is Todd Akin in the Science, Space and Technology Committee and why is West involved in business when he has never run one…????? HEAD DESK!

    They said today it is from a small sample but I have gotten at least six or seven in 24 years. Anyhoo, I didn’t get one for September 2012.

  4. dakinikat says:

    But it just isn’t so. The monthly jobs numbers are put together by career government analysts, using long-established statistical methods that are shielded from political influence. Until recently, the BLS was run by an appointee from the Bush administration, and it currently has no political appointees.

    Here’s how it works: The government surveys a random sample of roughly 60,000 households and 140,000 employers every month, according to Karen Kosanovich, senior economist at the BLS. Both the household and establishment surveys are scientifically random samples, meant to represent all U.S. residents and businesses.

    For the household survey, on which the unemployment rate is based, representatives from the Census Bureau interview people by knocking on their doors or calling them on behalf of the BLS.

    To break that down a bit further, the government does not actively choose whom to poll for the household survey.

  5. dakinikat says:

    Okay, I’m not posting the youtube because it’s frothy and piers morgan so you’ll need a lot of eye bleach if you watch it but embrace the frothy insanity:

    Rick Santorum On Big Bird: ‘You Can Kill Things And Still Like Them’

  6. RalphB says:

    BB mentioned Hardball upthread. How fake is our political debate in the media? Both guys on with Mathews, as “surrogates”, Steve McMahon (Dem) and Mark McKinnon (Rep) are associated with Purple Strategies, a firm founded by Alex Castellanos. Pardon me but that just sucks!

    • pdgrey says:

      This is the problem, Chris Matthews has been so far up the ass of Jack Welch it’s surprising he’s half way confronting the old jack ass.

      • pdgrey says:

        I should have added, Matthews owes his rich life to Welch, He lead the charge against the Clinton’s.

  7. dakinikat says:

    Charlie Rose Show ‏@CharlieRoseShow
    Tonight: talking about how to make the world a better place with @joestiglitz, author of “The Price of Inequality” & @chelseaclinton

  8. pdgrey says:

    Here’s is the truth, GM under Jack Welch, killed Al Gore, and tried to kill Bill Clinton. Check the daily howler.
    I hope the Democrats finally kill this bastard.

  9. roofingbird says:

    Ok, I’m not going to suggest that the stats are wrong.

    If I were looking for manipulation or to understand I would look to see whether the unemployment compensation term had been shortened. Discouraged workers are harder to track. The second place I would look is to the returning veteran situation, where some places might have been held unfilled. Under both Ford and Carter, the benefits were cut short before election. At that time I was a jobs counselor and very aware of it.

    So whether manipulation occurred or not and by whom, the query is not unfair.

    • RalphB says:

      Of itself it’s not unfair but it is as a knee jerk reaction and that’s what you see now. The BLS is not even the only survey to show this and this last jobs report puts the BLS more in line with the ADP private sector numbers. Though the ADP numbers are still better than the BLS.

    • roofingbird says:

      I don’t know why it had to be Welsh who brought this up and I don’t like the way it is being presented, but it’s something that has bothered me for a long time. I tried talking about it in 2008. No one wanted to hear it. In fact I don’t ever recall it being part of a past general pre-election discussion.

      So if it gets yelled about by all sides maybe some light will be shed on it. For example, is this some deliberate attempt on the part of Congress to time the endings of compensation bills? Is it the natural cycle of these bills that they end just before the election? I used to blame Ford and Carter for it, but actually they don’t make this policy, Congress does.

      • RalphB says:

        It hasn’t been part of a pre-election conversation before because people haven’t went insane with conspiracy theories before that I remember. BLS has been doing this for a long time and to start questioning now, as some kind of conspiracy, is just not right.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        “BLS has been doing this for a long time and to start questioning now, as some kind of conspiracy, is just not right.”

        Ralph, if I remember correctly you and I were involved in talking down this same BLS conspiracy lunacy at about this time last year. I agreed with you then, I agree with you now. We all know that all of the unemployed are not tracked by the BLS, but to suggest that bureau has somehow changed how it measures these numbers and jumped on the “rigging the numbers for Obama” bandwagon at the behest of Barack Obama, his campaign or some dark shadowy chicago element, is bullshit.

        The numbers went down because they are down, period!!!!!

      • roofingbird says:

        I don’t think its a conspiracy, but it might be planning. For California:

        You’ll note that extensions for unemployment are ending as of Dec. 2012. The Dept of Labor has determined that though unemployment remains high in CA, the percentage of unemployment has remained fairly static.

        Therefore, the DOL has determined that those who are still on unemployment will not be granted extensions.

        As of Oct 2nd the number who have run out of claims number 881,800. the 99 weekers have been shortened to 73. So as this winds down to December 2012 employment statistics will improve. Yet this is not because of job placement, but an increase of discouraged workers, no longer counted.

        It was the extensions that were shortened under Ford and Carter.

      • RalphB says:

        Just about everyone is accounted for in the U6 number though. That changes much less than the U3, which is 7.8, but it does it all the time.

      • RalphB says:

        One other thing, when discouraged workers leave the workforce the participation rate drops. This month there are actually people coming back into the workforce and the rate still dropped. It’s better than a 0.3% change in that way,

  10. peregrine says:

    What I’m impatient to know is if the Congressional nut-jobs’ days are waning or if there’s a new crop of Michelle Bauchmanns, Allen Wests, Todd Akins preparing to overwhelm our government? If only Eric Cantor was defeated….

  11. bostonboomer says:

    • peregrine says:

      That video is a hoot! Will the real Mitt Romney stand up, that is, if he knows which one is real?

  12. bostonboomer says:

    “After the presidential Debate my 6 year old son over heard my wife and discussing Mitt Romney comment that he would eliminate for PBA funding. He asked what PBS was. I informed him that is the channel that has Sesame Street. He was devastated at the thought of no more Elmo.”

  13. Hey, I am working on the comic post now…there are some fabulous ones…but until the post is up, here is something to make you laugh.

  14. pdgrey says:

    Just so we all know what a dick Alan Simpson is
    Alan Simpson: “I get so damn sick and tired of listening to the little guy”

  15. pdgrey says:

    Fired Big Bird ‏@FiredBigBird

    @FiredBigBird: Umpires in the Braves-Cardinals game just ruled it a touchdown… Jack Welch confirmed! #replacementrefs

    16m Fired Big Bird Fired Big Bird ‏@FiredBigBird

    Fans are throwing debris on the field at Braves-Cardinals game… unclear if Paul Ryan was giving his medicare pitch

    • pdgrey says:

      BREAKING: Chick-Fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy fires everyone in order to drive unemployment numbers back up.