Media Dismiss Drop In Unemployment Rate As Government "Propaganda"
Research ››› ››› MIKE BURNS & HANNAH GROCH-BEGLEY
Media figures have rushed to discredit the newly released jobs numbers, claiming that the drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent has been manufactured to help President Obama's reelection chances. In fact, experts dismiss the claims as unfounded conspiracy theories and agree that the numbers are accurate.
Jobs Report Reveals Decrease In Unemployment Rate To 7.8 Percent
Bureau of Labor Statistics: "The Unemployment Rate Decreased To 7.8 Percent In September." According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the September Jobs Report showed a decrease in the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent, and an increase in the civilian labor force:
The unemployment rate decreased to 7.8 percent in September, and total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 114,000, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment increased in health care and in transportation and warehousing but changed little in most other major industries.
Total employment rose by 873,000 in September, following 3 months of little change. The employment-population ratio increased by 0.4 percentage point to 58.7 percent, after edging down in the prior 2 months. The overall trend in the employment-population ratio for this year has been flat. 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. [Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10/5/12]
Media Figures Blasted Jobs Data As "Total Pro-Obama Propaganda"
Fox's Stuart Varney: "There Is Widespread Mistrust Of This Report And These Numbers." Discussing the jobs report on Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox Business host Stuart Varney said, "There is widespread mistrust of this report and these numbers." Varney went on to suggest that the unemployment rate drop warrants mistrust because it came five weeks before the presidential election:
VARNEY: There is widespread mistrust of this report and these numbers because there are clear contradictions. 873 thousand people said they had found work. But only 114 thousand new jobs were created. That is a contradiction. If you delve a little deeper, seems that a lot of these people who found work -- that's the 873 thousand -- if you look deeply, it turns out that 600 thousand of those 873 thousand people were part-time workers. So they came back into the labor force and they pushed the unemployment rate down to 7.8 percent. But there's a contradiction here between the number of new jobs created and the number of people saying they found work. It was part-time work, Bill. That's what it was.
VARNEY: That's where some of the mistrust comes in. Oh, how convenient that the rate drops below 8 percent for the first time in 43 months, 5 weeks before an election. That's why there's some mistrust that these numbers, along with the contradiction between 873 thousand people found work, only 114 thousand new jobs. Mistrust of this report. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 10/5/12]
Todd Starnes: "Unemployment Falls To 7.8 Percent ... How Suspiciously Convenient." In response to the jobs report release, Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes tweeted that it was "suspiciously convenient" that the unemployment rate fell:
Fox's Laura Ingraham: Jobs Numbers Are "Total Pro-Obama Propaganda." Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham wrote in a post on Twitter: "Jobs #s from Labor Secretary Hilda Solis are total pro-Obama propaganda--labor force participation rate at 30-yr low. Abysmal!"
CNN's Carol Costello: "Is There Any Reason For Any Of Us To Believe These Numbers Might Be Wrong Or Cooked?" Discussing the jobs report with Wall Street Journal editor and frequent Fox News guest Stephen Moore, CNN host Carol Costello asked, "Is there any reason for any of us to believe these numbers might be wrong or cooked?" Moore responded, "Well, good question," adding: "We still have this wide diversion in these two reports in terms of where the employment picture is." [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 10/5/12]
Ed Morrissey: "Something Very Odd At BLS This Month." Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey tweeted in response to the release of the September Jobs Report "BLS reports +114K jobs but household survey +873K? huh? Something very odd at BLS this month":
Eric Bolling Claimed BLS Release Showed Something Insidious. Fox News host Eric Bolling posted on Twitter following the release of the September Jobs Report on October 5 "Obama Labor Dept (7.8%) smarter than all 25 of Americas top Economists (8.2%est)..or something far more insideous [sic]":
Joe Scarborough: "These Numbers Don't Make Any Sense." Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough claimed the BLS "numbers don't make any sense" and "don't add up" because of "a weak participation rate and an anemic number of jobs added" :
SCARBOROUGH: You look at the metrics, you look at how it's set up, these numbers don't make any sense.
WILLIE GEIST (co-host): We need more explanation. We're reading through the report in great detail right now, because 114,000 jobs were added, which is below population growth, and a lot of people who projected that number, as Miles said, said if it comes down about 113, 120--
SCARBOROUGH: Anemic growth.
GEIST: You get about 8.1 percent unemployment. And now we've had a major tick down to 7.8 percent unemployment so we're still working through this.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (co-host): And this is in a time when we're seeing the worst long-term unemployment in recent history.
SCARBOROUGH: And the participation rates are historically low. There is an uptick in .1 percent I'm sorry, that's insignificant. These numbers don't add up.
SCARBOROUGH: Let me tell you something, seriously these numbers don't add up. They just don't. Again, I've got no dog in the fight here as far as the numbers go.
BRZEZINSKI: Cause you want them to be good, we all want them to be good.
SCARBOROUGH: I want them to be good. My dad was unemployed, I always, conservatives always get angry at me when I cheer good economic news, but Mike these numbers don't add up. It doesn't make sense it would drop to 7.8 percent with a weak participation rate and an anemic number of jobs added.
MIKE BARNICLE (co-host): Look, I am totally unqualified to weave my way through these numbers
SCARBOROUGH: Same here. Same with all of us.
BARNICLE: Try to figure it out, I am totally unqualified. I do know this though. That these new unemployment numbers, while offering promise and hope to a lot of people, I'm sure, won't offer promise or hope to an enormous number of people who are still unemployed in this country. There's a lot of unemployed people in this country. I don't know where the number came from, I hope it's accurate, but I just don't know.
GEIST: We should be very clear, I don't think any of us at this table is suggesting the Obama campaign or the White House is manipulating these numbers. We're just digging through the report and want to get it explained.
SCARBOROUGH: We just read Jack Welch's tweet for entertainment value. But I got to tell you though these numbers don't seem to add up. We need the Labor Department to explain. This is, though, every month it comes out, every month, this is such an inexact science. Every month, not just this month, that it's nonsense. They've got to figure out a better way, a more accurate way. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 10/5/12]
Fox's Monica Crowley: "1 Month Before Election, The Rate Miraculously Drops To 7.8%. Ahem." Following the release of the jobs report, Fox contributor Monica Crowley tweeted, "October 'surprise:' 43 consecutive months of above 8% unemployment, & 1 month before election, the rate miraculously drops to 7.8%. Ahem.
Conn Carroll: "I Don't Think BLS Cooked Numbers. I Think A Bunch Of Dems Lied About Getting Jobs." Conn Carroll, senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner, tweeted following the release of the September Jobs Report on October 5 that he didn't think the Bureau of Labor Statistics "cooked numbers," but rather "a bunch of Dems lied about getting jobs":
Martha MacCullum: "If It's True That These Numbers Are Exaggerated ... Then They Know That They're Not Better Off Than They Were Four Years Ago." On Fox News' America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCullum suggested that it might be "true that these numbers are exaggerated":
MARTHA MacCULLUM: You know, whenever you look at these economic numbers, I always wonder, because obviously, as you point out, the President's detractors will try to minimize the significance of this number, and the President will try to build it up, that's par for the political course. But it's really down to everyone's sort of individual economic reality. You know, and if it's true that these numbers are exaggerated, because people have taken part-time work, or work that isn't putting them back to where they were, then they know that they're not better off than they were four years ago. I mean it is a very individual experience, the economy. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 10/5/12]
CNBC's First Question To Labor Secretary Solis: How Do You Respond To Accusation That Jobs Numbers Are "Fixed"? CNBC host Carl Quintanilla asked Labor Secretary Hilda Solis about suggestions that the unemployment rate drop was "fixed" to "coincide with the election cycle." After Solis responded by explaining why the suggestions are "ludicrous," Quintanilla pressed her again, asking how she would respond to former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, who claimed that the unemployment rate is cooked. [CNBC, Squawk on the Street, 10/5/12]
To see the conservative media's history of dismissing newly released jobs numbers, click here.
Experts Agree There Is No Evidence Data Is Incorrect
MSNBC: "There Is Absolutely Zero Evidence To Suggest The Unemployment Data Has Been Manipulated In Any Way." On The Maddow Blog, MSNBC contributor Steve Benen wrote "there is absolutely zero evidence to suggest the unemployment data has been manipulated in any way":
For the record, there is absolutely zero evidence to suggest the unemployment data has been manipulated in any way. The monthly report is compiled by career officials at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, who are walled off from political influence and who've done nothing to have their integrity called into question, and if Republicans are going to raise the specter of an elaborate conspiracy theory, it's incumbent on them to offer at least some kind of proof.
But the larger problem is that this kind of twisted thinking isn't limited to job numbers.
I'm reminded of something Alex Seitz-Wald wrote earlier this year, when Fox News became heavily invested in the argument that the job numbers were illegitimate:
If it weren't improper to psychologically analyze strangers, one might think the Fox hosts are displaying a textbook example of cogitative dissonance here, a psychological phenomena in which people who hold on strong belief about something invent (sometimes farfetched) explanations for new evidence that conflicts with their existing views. Obama is bad for the economy, the jobs numbers show the economy is doing better, so there must be something wrong with the jobs numbers.
But doesn't this sound familiar? The polls look bad for Romney, but rather than deal with the evidence, Republicans assume there's a conspiracy to "skew" the data.
Climate scientists present evidence of global warming, but rather than deal with the evidence, Republicans assume there's a conspiracy to scare the public.
Forget politics for a minute and consider this thesis: it's just not healthy for an entire political party to be so uncomfortable with reality that they deal with it, frequently, by cooking up elaborate and implausible theories, based on no evidence whatsoever. [The Maddow Blog, 10/5/12]
Economist Justin Wolfers: Fluctuations Between The Survey And Payroll Numbers Are "Not Unusual." Economist Justin Wolfers told Talking Points Memo that fluctuations between payroll and survey numbers are common, noting, "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." [Talking Points Memo, 10/5/12]
Business Insider: Drop In Unemployment Rate Is Not A "Gigantic Surprise." Business Insider reported that the drop in the unemployment rate "should not have been a gigantic surprise," because the number is "consistent with a lot of other September datapoints, including monthly auto sales, which came out earlier this week, and were at the highest level since the crisis, at nearly a 15 million annualized adjusted rate":
The drop in the unemployment rate in September -- from 8.1% to 7.8% -- should not have been a gigantic surprise.
As we reported before, the number is consistent with a lot of other September datapoints, including monthly auto sales, which came out earlier this week, and were at the highest level since the crisis, at nearly a 15 million annualized adjusted rate.
And as you can see from this chart, there is a LONG history of the unemployment rate (red line) moving in tandem with car sales.
Business Insider included the following chart:
[Business Insider, 10/5/12]
Ezra Klein: "The Data Was Not ... Manipulated." MSNBC policy analyst and Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein wrote that 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." Klein added: "[I]f 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 Washington Post, 10/5/12]
Economist Betsey Stevenson: "Anyone Who Thinks That Political Folks Can Manipulate The [Unemployment] Data Are Completely Ignorant." In a post on Twitter, Betsey Stevenson, former chief economist at the Department of Labor, wrote: "Anyone who thinks that political folks can manipulate the unempt data are completely ignorant about how BLS works & how data are compiled."
NY Times: "The Really Impressive Figures Were In The Categories Of People Who Have Suffered The Most." In a post on The New York Times' Economix blog, chief financial correspondent Floyd Norris wrote, "The overall unemployment rate fell in September to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent a month earlier. But the really impressive figures were in the categories of people who have suffered the most." Norris went on to explain that the rate among high school dropouts fell to the lowest level in nearly four years and that "the number of people who have been out of work for more than six months fell below five million for the first time since mid-2009":
The overall unemployment rate fell in September to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent a month earlier. But the really impressive figures were in the categories of people who have suffered the most.
The jobless rate among people with college degrees was unchanged at 4.1 percent. But the rate among high school dropouts fell to 11.3 percent, the lowest figure for that group in nearly four years. It has declined by 1.4 percentage points over the last two months. [The New York Times, 10/5/12]
Economist Lawrence Mishel: "There Was Nothing Particularly Strange About This Month's Jobs Reports." In a post on the Economic Policy Institute's blog, EPI President Lawrence Mishel wrote "there was nothing particularly strange about this month's jobs reports -- and certainly nothing to spur accusations of outright fraud" and called the claim that the BLS manipulated the jobs report a "slanderous lie":
Apparently, Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric, is accusing the Bureau of Labor Statistics of manipulating the jobs report to help President Obama. Others seem to be adding their voices to this slanderous lie. It is simply outrageous to make such a claim and echoes the worrying general distrust of facts that seems to have swept segments of our nation.
BLS is a highly professional agency with dozens of people involved in the tabulation and analysis of these data. The idea that the data are manipulated is just completely implausible. Moreover, the data trends reported are clearly in line with previous monthly reports and other economic indicators (such as GDP). The key result was the 114,000 increase in payroll employment from the establishment survey, which was right in line with what forecasters were expecting. This was a positive growth in jobs but roughly the amount to absorb a growing labor force and maintain a stable, not falling, unemployment rate. If someone wanted to help the president, they should have doubled the job growth the report showed.
The household survey was much more positive, showing unemployment falling from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent. These numbers are more volatile month to month and it wouldn't be surprising to see unemployment rise a bit next month. Nevertheless, there's nothing implausible about the reported data. The household survey has shown greater job growth in the recovery than the establishment survey throughout the recovery. The labor force participation rate (the share of adults who are working or unemployed) increased to 63.6 percent, which is an improvement from the prior month but still below the 63.7 percent reported for July. All in all, there was nothing particularly strange about this month's jobs reports--and certainly nothing to spur accusations of outright fraud. [Economic Policy Institute, 10/5/12]