1 Jobs Report Spawns ‘Job Truthers’ Movement
2 Robert Reich: The Politics of the Jobs Report


Solid Jobs Report Spawns Crackpot ‘Job Truthers’

Benjy Sarlin
October 5, 2012

This post has been updated.

The economy added 114,000 jobs in September and
unemployment declined to 7.8 percent. Not great numbers,
but paired with major upward revisions to previous
monthly reports and taken in the context of a slowly
recovering economy, the report was viewed as good news
for America.

Unless, of course, you were hoping for bad news. And
apparently quite a few of President Obama’s critics were
— so much so that they suggested the Bureau of Labor
Statistics was part of a vast conspiracy.
The leader of the “job truther” movement: former GE CEO
Jack Welch.

“Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do
anything..can’t debate so change numbers,” he said on

He had some friends in Congress too. Rep. Allen West (R-
FL) tweeted “I agree with former GE CEO Jack Welch,
Chicago style politics is at work here.” He added on
Facebook that the jobs report was “Orwellian to say the
least and representative of Saul Alinsky tactics from
the book ‘Rules for Radicals.’”

FOX News’ Stuart Varney apparently sensed where his
audience was going. Within minutes of their release he
told viewers that “there is widespread mistrust of this
report and these numbers.”

“How convenient the rate drops below 8% [for the] first
time in 43 months, five weeks before the election,” he
added later.

CNBC host Jim Carmer said he was pilloried by viewers
for defending the BLS report’s integrity.

“This is very hot. You believe the number, you must be a
card-carrying Communist,” he joked on the air.

Betsey Stevenson, a former chief economist at the
Department of Labor under President Obama, said in a
phone interview with TPM that the conspiracy theories
were misguided in just about every way possible. For
starters, the Bureau of Labor Statistics isn’t currently
run by a political appointee. For most of Obama’s term,
the commissioner was a holdover appointed by President
Bush. The current acting commissioner John Gavin is a
career BLS economist, not an Obama appointee.

The underlying data behind the BLS reports is also
publicly released and used by analysts across the
private sector and academia, meaning a conspiracy would
have to survive scrutiny from trained economists of all
political stripes.

Nor is there much time to cook the books at the top
level if they wanted to.

“I worked for Secretary Hilda Solis and she didn’t know
the job numbers until 8 a.m. on the day,” Stevenson
said. “Which made my job very difficult, because I had
to help her figure out what she was going to say when
they were released.” The BLS releases the numbers
publicly at 8:30 a.m. ET.

But conspiracy theorists are out in full force. Conn
Carroll, a columnist at the Washington Examiner, noted
that the Household Survey, which is used to calculate
the unemployment rate, was more positive than the raw
jobs numbers, which come from a survey of employers, and
suggested that the true conspirators were unemployed

 Conn Carroll@conncarroll
I don't think BLS cooked numbers. I think a bunch of
Dems lied about getting jobs. That would have same
5 Oct 12 ReplyRetweetFavorite
Justin Wolfers, an economics professor at the University
of Michigan, told TPM these kinds of fluctuations
between the survey and payroll numbers were common.

“It’s not unusual — the household survey is a noisy
measure, there’s no doubt about it, and that’s why most
analysts rely more on the payroll survey,” he said.

Update: The conspiracy crowd may need to expand their
theory to the private sector. The consensus from market
analysts the day before the report was a 110,000 job
gain. The private ADP survey, released earlier this
week, found that US businesses added 162,000 jobs.

Update II: Add radio host Laura Ingraham to the mix.

Update III: CNBC host Rick Santelli criticized Welch for
his tweet, but added that it was a common concern.

Update IV: Here’s FOX News’ homepage as of 12:10 PM ET:

The headline on the post itself refers to a “campaign
firestorm” and flags Jack Welch’s tweet. It then goes on
to cite mainstream economists who suggest that the
unemployment rate drop may be a statistical outlier, not
a conspiracy.

Update V: Allen West took to CNBC to say Obama
“absolutely” is cooking the books.

Update VI: A White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, told
reporters the conspiracy theories around the BLS were

“They’re utter nonsense. Anybody, any serious person who
has any familiarity with how these numbers are tabulated
understands that these are career employees at the
Bureau of Labor Statistics that are responsible for
compiling and analyzing these numbers and they do that
on their own.”
Update VII: Romney campaign policy director Lanhee Chen
told Fox Business that they would adress the BLS report
without delving into speculation over its validity.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated
Justin Wolfers’ academic affiliation. TPM regrets the

 2012, 2012 presidential campaign, Jobs
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and
co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously
reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their
Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for
the New York Sun.


The Politics of the Jobs Report

Robert Reich
October 5, 2012

The White House is breathing easier this morning. The
Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the unemployment rate
dropped to 7.8 percent—the first time it’s been under 8
percent in 43 months.

In political terms, headlines are everything—and most
major media are leading with the drop in the
unemployment rate.

Look more closely, though, and the picture is murkier.
According to the separate payroll survey undertaken by
the BLS, just 114,000 new jobs were added in September.
At least 125,000 are needed per month just to keep up
with population growth. Yet August’s job number was
revised upward to 142,000, and July’s to 181,000.

In other words, we’re still crawling out of the deep
crater we fell into in 2008 and 2009. The percent of the
working-age population now working or actively looking
for work is higher than it was, but still near a thirty-
year low.

But at least we’re crawling out.

Romney says we’re not doing well enough, and he’s right.
But the prescriptions he’s offering—more tax cuts for
the rich and for big companies – won’t do anything
except enlarge the budget deficit. And the cuts he
proposes in public investments like education and
infrastructure, and safety nets like Medicare and
Medicaid, will take money out of the pockets of people
who not only desperately need it but whose spending is
necessary to keep the tepid recovery going.

Romney promises if elected the economy will create 12
million new jobs in his first term. If we were back in a
normal economy, that number wouldn’t be hard to reach.
Bill Clinton presided over an economy that generated 22
million new jobs in eight years—and that was more than a
decade ago when the economy and working-age population
were smaller than now.

Both Obama and Romney assume the recovery will continue,
even at a slow pace, and that we’ll be back to normal at
some point. But I’m not at all sure. “Normal” is what
got us into this mess in the first place. The
concentration of income and wealth at the top has robbed
the vast middle class of the purchasing power it needs
to generate a full recovery – something that was masked
by borrowing against rising home values, but can no
longer be denied. Unless or until this structural
problem is dealt with, we won’t be back to normal.


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