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.