Tag Archives: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Turns out, FOX was right all along

Hearken back, if you can, to the early days of October – or as I call it, Funkyzeit mit Romney.

Barack Obama was coming off a lackluster first debate that let Mitt Romney back into a race he’d seemingly dropped out of. Romney’s post-debate ‘bounce’ was just beginning to show up in the polls. The president was desperate for some good news.

And on October 5, he got some: the Labor Department announced a drop in the jobless rate from 8.1 to 7.8 in September. The drop below the 8% threshold was significant, and provided a shot of energy to the Obama campaign. As the New York Times put it:

Mr. Romney was deprived of a favorite line of attack, mocking the president for “43 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent.”

Of course, you probably remember the response on the right.

And it wasn’t just Jack Welch with his crazy conspiracy theory. Chances are you won’t click on that tweet (why would you?), so I’ll tell you: it was retweeted over 5,000 times. The Huffington Post compiled some of the other responses (you can skim this huge block of text to get the idea, or just take my word for it):

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) joined the trutherism on his Facebook page. “I agree with former GE CEO Jack Welch, Chicago style politics is at work here. 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.”

The right-leaning Americans for Limited Government released a statement saying, “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. Given that these numbers conveniently meet Obama’s campaign promises one month before the election, the conclusions are obvious.”

Economic journalist Stuart Varney said on Fox News, “There is widespread distrust of this report.”

Conn Carroll, of the Washington Examiner, tweeted, “I don’t think BLS cooked numbers. I think a bunch of Dems lied about getting jobs. That would have same effect.”

Rick Santelli, the CNBC media personality, yelled, “I told you they’d get it under 8 percent — they did! You can let America decide how they got there!”

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC primarily backed by GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, launched a robocall attacking vulnerable House Democrats over the figures.

And while many of  these sources are hardly mainstream conservative voices, the Wall Street Journal did publish a Jack Welch editorial even after he admitted on-air to Chris Matthews that he had absolutely no evidence for his allegations:

Unfortunately for those who would like me to pipe down, the 7.8% unemployment figure released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) last week is downright implausible. And that’s why I made a stink about it.

And the front page of FOXNews.com briefly looked like this:

Continue reading Turns out, FOX was right all along

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Mislabeling data to score political points (my most exciting post title yet!)

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared as ‘That time Obama for America doctored the data’, but has been updated to reflect the benefit-of-the-doubt.

It’s no secret that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan hope to beat Barack Obama on the economy.

I’m not going to quote Mitt, because it’s pretty much all he talks about, but Ryan’s shiny and new: “Without a doubt, President Obama inherited a difficult situation. Here’s the problem: He made it worse.”

No, Paul. Here‘s the problem: it’s one thing to claim – with a straight face – that the economy could have grown faster under your economic policies. It’s quite another to argue that Obama made the economy worse.

Heck, even Republican governors can’t help themselves. Per the Los Angeles Times, in Republican governors tout job gains — to Obama team’s delight:

One by one, Republican governors of three presidential battleground states took the floor at the party’s national convention and touted recent job gains in their states – not Mitt Romney’s preferred message.

First up was Gov. John Kasich of Ohio: 122,000 jobs created since he took office last year, he boasted, and a state that has leaped from 48th to fourth in job creation.

Next came Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia: “Over the last two years, with Republicans and Democrats working together, our unemployment rate is down 20% to 5.9%,” he said. “We’ve added 151,000 net new jobs.”

Finally, there was Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. “Like many places across the country, Wisconsin lost more than 100,000 jobs from 2008 to 2010,” he said. “Unemployment during that time topped out at over 9%. But because of our reforms, Wisconsin has added thousands of new jobs, and our unemployment rate is down from when I first took office.”

These inconvenient truthtellings come on the heels of a week-old NYTimes blog post – from which the above Paul Ryan quote was drawn – Has Obama Made the Economy Worse? The answer – if you can’t guess – is ‘No’. The article includes a chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing job gains and losses under Presidents Bush and Obama:

The graph clearly shows that while the economy has not nearly regained the jobs lost during the recession, suggesting that Obama made the situation ‘worse’ is simply the wishful thinking of a campaign without a rabbit in its hat.

Meanwhile, I recognized the graph’s basic shape from Barack My Timeline! (purveyor of prObama Facebook cover photos, and about which I wrote  just over two months ago):

But something looked a little off. See if you can spot the difference (Hint: it’s circled in red.):

And this is where my original post (see Editor’s Note above) went off-track: it decried the change in polarity in the Barack My Timeline! graph, and shared the website’s source: an email sent by Obama for America:

As you may have gathered from the post’s original title, I used the opportunity to slam the organization for stretching the truth to bolster Obama’s record on the economy:

Listen, it’s politics: everybody stretches the truth. But it’s one thing to distort someone’s words, and it’s quite another thing to start messing with what should be cold, hard facts. Color me unimpressed.

But a friend suggested that despite a superficial similarity between the two graphs, it is likely that they are actually drawn from different datasets.

More specifically, the Obama for America graph is labeled ‘Private sector’, while the BLS data’s more generic label (‘Jobs Gain/Loss’) implies that it includes all job gains and losses, including those in the public sector. The enormous bump in hiring and firing that appears during the summer of 2010 most likely reflects public-sector hiring as the result of that year’s census. In other words, though the Obama for America graph omits this surge in temporary employment, and the consequent contraction that followed, it actually provides a more accurate picture of the overall job market – not less, as I had originally alleged.

In other words, the only party that can be legitimately held responsible for numerical misdirection is Barack My Timeline!, which failed to label the data it presented, but which clearly states that “This site is not affiliated with Obama for America, the DNC, or any political organization.”

Good.