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Former Bush-Appointed BLS Head: It’s Impossible To Manipulate Labor Survey Data

The most recent head of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, who was appointed by President Bush and left office at the end of his term earlier this year, is pushing back on the claims of Jack Welch and others that today’s jobs report numbers were manipulated somehow:

Keith Hall, who served as Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2008 until 2012, said in an interview Friday that there is no way someone at the agency could change any of the data from its two monthly employment surveys. The significant improvement in the unemployment rate may reflect normal statistical errors in the sampling process, he said, but that has nothing to do with manipulation.

“There’s nothing wrong with the numbers,” said Mr. Hall. “The only issue is the interpretation of the numbers. The numbers are what they are.”

For September, the politically important unemployment rate fell to 7.8% in September from 8.1% the prior month, according to the Labor Department. That was the lowest level since January 2009 and well below the 8.1% forecast of economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires. The unemployment rate estimate is derived from a survey of households, which came up with an estimate that 863,000 jobs were added for the month.

But the separate establishment survey from which the official payrolls number is derived reported a more modest seasonally adjusted gain of 114,000 jobs in September. That was below the consensus forecast of 118,000, though the previous two months were revised higher.

Mr. Hall said the inconsistent reports reflect the different samples used in the two surveys, one focused on households the other on businesses. The establishment survey has a huge sample size of 141,000 business and agencies covering 486,000 worksites, whereas the household survey covers just 60,000 homes.

“The household survey is much smaller. When you look at something like labor force and employment levels, the uncertainty of those numbers is much larger,” said Mr. Hall. “Within two months, the household survey could show the unemployment rate eking back up.”

The fact that we’re even arguing over a nonsense theory like this just shows how idiotic our politics has become, and yes in this case it is a certain wing of the Republican Party that is at fault. Is it possible that the BLS reports may not be correctly measuring the state of the Labor Market? I would say that it is and that we probably ought to do what we can to make sure those statistics are accurate. The argument that this month’s report was politically manipulated, though, is the equivalent of 9/11 Trutherism, Birtherism, and last week’s conspiracy of the week, Poll Denialism.

H/T Commenter Doubter4444

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jr says:

    The right is on the edge of losing it completely……when Barry is reelected it is going to be fun to watch their heads explode.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

  2. I’m sure that Mitt Romney’s boy Fred Malek can track down the truth at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. After all, Malek already managed to track down all the Jews there for Nixon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  3. mantis says:

    Have we seen Keith Hall’s birth certificate?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  4. PJ says:

    @Jr:
    It won’t be fun. There’s too much anger and too much weapons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  5. Eric Florack says:

    Again, as I said in other threads, it comes down to how it’s reported.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 18

  6. swbarnes2 says:

    The fact that we’re even arguing over a nonsense theory like this just shows how idiotic our politics has become, and yes in this case it is a certain wing of the Republican Party that is at fault

    Okay, so how many times a week do you feel the need to disown the actions of “this wing”? How many times in comparison do you criticize “wings” of Democrats for doing things equally stupid?

    You could help elect politicians who don’t encourage and bask in such rank stupidity and dishonesty. You choose not to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  7. stonetools says:

    @swbarnes2:

    Its good that Doug criticizes a Republican Party that is now dominated by wingnuts . Its bad that Doug doesn’t draw the logical conclusion of planning to casting a vote that in effect favors the wingnuts. I’m hoping he evolves in the next 30 days. Hey, it happened to John Cole and the LGF guy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  8. stonetools says:

    Looking at this latest conspiracy theory, i wonder if we have reached peak wingnut as yet?

    What’s the kerning on that BLS Report? Do you know that if BLS is scrambled , its an acronym for Legion of Secret Bolsheviks?

    This report has not been properly vetted or skewed….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  9. legion says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Again, as I said in other threads, it comes down to how it’s reported.

    And as I said in the other thread: you’re wrong. If you were at all correct, other “uncompromised” news sources, who have full access to those reports and their methodologies, would need very little time to see the BS and point it out. You think if anyone on Fox News could show that the “real” unemployment rate was radically different from the headline numbers, they’d hesitate to blast it across the spectrum?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. swbarnes2 says:

    @stonetools:

    Its good that Doug criticizes a Republican Party that is now dominated by wingnuts . Its bad that Doug doesn’t draw the logical conclusion of planning to casting a vote that in effect favors the wingnuts.

    I think we’re at the point where Doug is just a nihilist. If every elected Republican cheered a real life literal lynching, Doug would sigh over it, and then go right back to casting votes to put those guys in power. Words are cheap, and there’s not a lot of virtue in complaining about what the kind of people you put in power do when you intend on continuing to help them do what they want to do.

    “Dominated by wingnuts” is a weird argument. There are Republican politicians who pass horrible policies. There are people whose votes enable this, and I don’t see much point in separating those voters out into good and bad camps based on what’s really in their hearts. I can’t know that, I don’t really want to try. It’s enough to look at the policies their votes lead to. I think they all vote the way they do, because the Republican party has as its core premise that (rich) straight white men are just better than everyone else, and there are a lot of voters who, no matter how awful the policies are, won’t vote for a party that rejects that premise.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  11. bluespapa says:

    Why aren’t you denying hurricaneism? Because, you know, Obama ordered the hurricane, and NOAA to tell people about it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1