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10/5/2012
Right Wing Paranoia on Jobs Numbers

It must be a sad life living as a right wing nutcase. The entire world is against you — the media, the government, liberals, the New York Yankees (I have it on good authority that the Yankees manipulate coverage of ESPN so that they are always the lead story.)

Now, we can add to that enemies list the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS vomited forth the latest jobs numbers today and despite the fact that the number of unemployed and underemployed Americans remained the same from August, the “official” unemployment rate dropped from 8.1% to 7.8%.

Let us be absolutely clear. There is very little encouraging about these numbers. About the best you can say is that 114,000 jobs created in August and a revision upward of 86,000 jobs from the previous two months saves this report from being a total downer.

Meanwhile, net monthly job growth is still below the number needed to employ those entering the job market for the first time. An astonishing 183,000 Americans took a second job last month because there aren’t any full time jobs available. Labor participation rate is near the all time low since records have been kept — it dropped one tenth of one percent from last month’s record. The growth in jobs was due in large part to an incredible increase of 600,000 part time jobs created over one month — bringing the total of part time workers to 8.6 million Americans. These are people who want to work full time, but because of the stinky economy, can’t find a job.

In short, the right has nothing to be concerned about. This jobs report stinks - a political disaster if Republicans can articulate the underlying weakness. If the Obama campaign was going to manipulate the numbers, don’t you think they’d forget to include all of these indicators of a pathetically weak, stagnant job market? Or maybe they were counting on nobody noticing?

The confusing and arcane way in which the BLS figures the “unemployment rate,” or U-3, is beyond the understanding of most of us. But that hasn’t stopped a slew of right wingers from giving us a knowing wink and opining that the large drop in the widely quoted official rate is “convenient” and that the number has “obviously” been cooked.

Here are a few of the more prominent “jobs truthers”:

The leader of the “job truther” movement: former GE CEO Jack Welch.

“Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers,” he said on Twitter.

He had some friends in Congress too. Rep. Allen West (R-FL) tweeted “I agree with former GE CEO Jack Welch, Chicago style politics is at work here.” He added on Facebook that the jobs report was “Orwellian to say the least and representative of Saul Alinsky tactics from the book ‘Rules for Radicals.’”

FOX News’ Stuart Varney apparently sensed where his audience was going. Within minutes of their release he told viewers that “there is widespread mistrust of this report and these numbers.”

“How convenient the rate drops below 8% [for the] first time in 43 months, five weeks before the election,” he added later.

CNBC host Jim Carmer said he was pilloried by viewers for defending the BLS report’s integrity.

“This is very hot. You believe the number, you must be a card-carrying Communist,” he joked on the air.

All of these paranoids have made a classic error in logic; they have put the cart before the horse by adopting an assumption — cooked books — without any evidence that would buttress and undergird that assumption. Instead, they have substituted an outcome — large decrease in unemployment rate — to “prove” the assumption is correct.

Yes, but they “know in their gut” that the numbers are cooked. “I wouldn’t put it past Obama” is another bit of fancy that passes for “evidence.” I am perfectly willing to believe that the numbers are cooked — just as soon as someone shows me how it was done. Or even how it could be done. The BLS publishes reams and reams of data along with the numbers. Show me where the data is falsified. Show me where their computations are goofy. Show me where there is the slightest whiff of collusion between the BLS and the Obama White House. Show me one tiny piece of evidence that your paranoia is justified.

In short, show me or shut up.

Is there no Diogenes out there who will carry the lantern through the streets, seeking the truth to save us from this folly? Well, Ezra Klein is definitely not Diogenes but he’ll do in a pinch:

Let’s get one thing out of the way: 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. As labor economist Betsey Stevenson wrote, “anyone who thinks that political folks can manipulate the unemployment data are completely ignorant of how the BLS works and how the data are compiled.” Plus, if 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 fact is that there’s not much that needs to be explained here. We’ve seen drops like this — and even drops bigger than this — before. Between July and August the unemployment rate dropped from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent — two-tenths of one percent. November-December of 2011 also saw a .2 percent drop. November-December of 2010 saw a .4 percent drop. This isn’t some incredible aberration. The fact that the unemployment rate broke under the psychologically important 8 percent line is making this number feel bigger to people than it really is.

The number could, of course, be wrong. The household survey is, well, a survey, which means it’s open to error. But the internals back it up. The number saying they had jobs increased by about 800,000. That seems high, but it’s counting 582,000 who say they got part-time jobs.

There’s precedent for this. As Daniel Indiviglio notes, part-time jobs increased by 579,000 in September 2010 and by 483,000 in September 2011. It might simply be seasonal hiring. You don’t need to resort to ridiculous theories like Democrats across the country suddenly deciding to lie to surveytakers in order to help Obama.

The idea that supposedly intelligent conservatives have eaten fruit from the tree of conspiracy isn’t surprising at all. When reason and logic are rejected and objective reality eschewed in favor of emotionalism and paranoia, the end result is always ugly and misshapen thinking.

UPDATE

My old friend John Cole at Balloon Juice has rediscovered my blog. Thanks for the link to this post, John — I need the hits.

As for his commentary…

Rick Moran, blogging at the most poorly named website on the planet, the American Thinker, letting the “paranoids” update his post:

I posted my AT blog about 15 minutes after the BLS numbers were released. As is usual with big stories like this, I added this to the post:

As usual with this number, the real unemployment data is hidden away inside the BLS report. We’ll update this blog as deeper analysis becomes available.

And indeed, as I mention above, those numbers “hidden away” in the BLS report are a disaster for Cole and his partisans.

But if John had bothered to read the masthead at American Thinker, he would know that the concept of me “letting” Tom Lifson update the blog is absurd. Tom is editor in chief and one of the founders of American Thinker. He also signs my paychecks. In what wacky world that Cole inhabits would you not “let” your boss do what he darn well pleases with your post?

(As an aside, when I disagree with Tom, he encourages me to add an update to that particular blog post registering my objections. I may do so this morning with the BLS story — time spent at my other job having been a factor yesterday in me not responding.)

Cole is as nutty as the right wing crazies. But I do appreciate the link, and welcome back, John.

By: Rick Moran at 1:00 pm
3 Responses to “Right Wing Paranoia on Jobs Numbers”
  1. 1
    Release Of Jobs Report Gives Birth To The Unemployment Truthers Pinged With:
    1:08 pm 

    [...] #2: Rick Moran is one conservative not buying the conspiracy theories. Tweet FILED UNDER: Doug Mataconis, Economics and Business, US [...]

  2. 2
    Right Wing Paranoia on Jobs Numbers | Liberal Whoppers Pinged With:
    6:00 pm 

    [...] this link: Right Wing Paranoia on Jobs Numbers [...]

  3. 3
    Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » A Tale of Two Ricks Pinged With:
    7:21 pm 

    [...] Rick Moran, at 1 pm, blogging at his own website: [...]

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