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Jack Welch, the unemployment rate, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics: 5 ways to understand the jobs report
Storified by Digital First Media · Fri, Oct 05 2012 09:34:44
Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbersJack Welch
Former GE CEO Jack Welch gave a high-profile boost to Republican grassroots grumblings about the improved September unemployment rate when he tweeted that the Obama administration had manipulated the numbers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics
, which produces the reports, batted down the complaint. Here are five things you need to know:
Jobs data is hard to manipulate
a former BLS leader called it “next to impossible”
: “People shouldn’t think at all there is any bias in the numbers,” said Keith Hall, who until recently was commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “This data is collected and examined by each state … hundreds of people at BLS help collect this data and compile it. If you wanted to try to mess with these numbers, you are talking a very difficult thing.” (You can wade through
exactly how it’s done.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics was set up to ensure presidents can’t influence it
last year put together a long explainer on how the bureau works. In addition to
a structure that renders it safe from influential hands
, its work is apparently very dramatic, according to the Post story: “In a windowless room in the Labor Department, 40 economists and journalists prepared for the report’s official release. They studied the contents of folders labeled: ‘Confidential Data: For those with authorization, access and need-to-know.’ … The Labor Department had recently sought security advice from the organization that safeguards the country’s stockpile of national weapons, for fear of a last-minute leak.” (
also did a lengthy review of the agency.)
Still, there are problems with the unemployment rate statistic
Mainly, it’s that the unemployment rate most people refer to
does not measure people who have stopped looking for work
out of frustration. The
New York Time’s Economix blog explained it
with a nifty chart after the May jobs report came out.
The jobs report may not affect the campaign as much as you think
In a post on the
blog, George Washington University political science professor John Sides argues that
perception and news coverage, and how those two factors work together, matter more than the actual report
, and a couple hundreths of a point here or there: “It’s not an election where negative news coverage of the economy may hurt the incumbent even as the objective economy improves,” he wrote in mid-September.
The campaigns are likely to use the numbers to suit themselves anyway