The Washington Post

Unemployment conspiracy? It’d be complicated

(Justin Sullivan/GETTY IMAGES)

The charge is that political meddling could account for the drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent.

If the Obama brain trust really wanted to subvert the public trust, it’d be well-advised to choose a more cloistered area of public policy. Goosing the employment numbers, after all, would entail corrupting the work of between 2,000 and 2,500 people who work for the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a rather large pool of potential leakers.

Another check on such a conspiracy is the Internet. According to Tom Nardone, BLS’s associate commissioner for employment and unemployment statistics, the Census posts on its site each month an enormous file of the raw data that BLS uses in compiling its unemployment numbers. It’s the “public-release version of the microdata,” says Nardone. So for those who are interested in fact-checking the output, the files will be posted, says Nardone.

Of today’s outburst of skepticism regarding the numbers, Nardone says, “We’ve been accused of things before. People who deal with us on an ongoing basis know we’re not a political organization.”

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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