Romney Supporters Reach for Tinfoil Hats Over Jobs Numbers

Rep. Allen West (R/TEA Party – FL)

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.

Politico reported:

“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, Photo: Chris Prevatt

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.


  1. A year ago the administration cancelled tier 1, 2, 3 4, and EU unemployment extensions.

    The last people collecting unemployment on a federal extension would have dropped off the rolls in August.

    Also in August is “Back to School” so a great many teachers would drop off the unemployment too.

  2. The BLS has used the same established methodology and data sources consistently for years; and BLS is insulated from politics.
    Romney and others should stop betting against American companies and individuals, as they attempt to score political points at the expense of Americans.

    BLS report:

  3. How To Lie With Unemployment Statistics 101
    M-W-F, 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
    Instructor: Barack Hussein Obama

    Key Definition:
    Workforce = the employed + the unemployed THAT ARE LOOKING FOR WORK.

    In order to reduce the Official Unemployment Rate the Labor Department needs to find bureaucratic reasons to take large numbers of the unemployed off the Workforce Statistics.

    For Example: If an unemployed person, while collecting unemployment benefits, was making an effort to find work, then once the unemployment benefits ended the Labor Department can designate the person as “Too Discouraged to Look for Work” and take the unemployed person off the Workforce Statistics.

    In 2001, the first year of Bush 43’s reign, 654,000 were removed and there was a consistent yearly increase ending in 2008 in which 2.572 million unemployed were removed from the Workforce Statistics.

    In 2009, the first year of President “Hope & Change” Obama’s reign 4.009 million unemployed were removed from the Workforce Statistics, in 2010, the 2nd year, 5.708 million removed, in 2011, the 3rd year, 7.189 removed. If January’s 2012 removal numbers become the 2012’s monthly average then in 2012 the Workforce removal number will be 8.964 million.

    The stats quoted above come from Chart G “Constant Workforce Participation (CWP) Unemployment Rare” on page 9 from the link below.
    “Making 9 Million Jobless “Vanish”: How The Government Manipulates Unemployment Statistics
    By Daniel R. Amerman, CFA

    • In the link that I provided above (in the FAQs), there is a discussion of people who are EXCLUDED from the statistics:
      Does the official unemployment rate exclude people who have stopped looking for work?
      Yes; however, there are separate estimates of persons outside the labor force who want a job, including
      those who have stopped looking because they believe no jobs are available (discouraged workers).
      “In addition, alternative measures of labor underutilization (some of which include discouraged workers and other groups not officially counted as unemployed) are published each month in The Employment
      Situation news release”.

      Again the main point is that this is an ESTABLISHED and CONSISTENT methodology used.

      • “an ESTABLISHED and CONSISTENT methodology” ???

        YES, – the “ESTABLISHED and CONSISTENT methodology” started in 2001, the first year of Bush 43’s reign, when 654,000 unemployed who were classified as “Too Discouraged to Look for Work” were removed from the Official Unemployment calculations.

        Not with President Clinton:
        The stats from Chart G “Constant Workforce Participation (CWP) Unemployment Rare” on page 9 from the link below show no “Cumulative People Removed” during the Clinton years 1998 thru 2000.
        “Making 9 Million Jobless “Vanish”: How The Government Manipulates Unemployment Statistics
        By Daniel R. Amerman, CFA

        Obama – worse than Bush 43:
        Last year of Bush reign, 2.572 million removed
        Obama, 4.009, 5.708, 7.189, and (8.964 million removed from the “7.8%” Unemployment Rate calculation)

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