The Labor Department reported this morning that the U.S. created 114,000 new jobs in September and, for the first time since President Barrack Obama took office, the unemployment rate fell below 8 percent. A rise in government hiring also was responsible for an upward revision of jobs creation in the prior two months. The latest report shows that economy added 181,000 jobs in July, initially estimated at 141,000, and 142,000 in August, up from 96,000.
The sudden surge in the jobs numbers has inspired plenty of commentary, some of it sharp-tongued, surrounding what is turning into a very heated Presidential race.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney commented that the rapid drop in the unemployment rate “is not what a real recovery looks like.” Romney also said that the rate is low because so many people have stopped trying to find work and millions of others are living in poverty while they struggle to find a job.
Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric (GE), cranked the comments up a notch when he tweeted, “Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers.” Welch is, of course referring to the recent Presidential debate in which the common consensus was the Mitt Romney won the sparring match with President Obama.
Responding to Welch’s tweet, Former White House economic aide Austan Goolsbee said that the former GE chief executive didn’t know what he was talking about. “love ya jack but here you’ve lost your mind,” Goolsbee put on Twitter.
In an appearance on CNBC, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis called Jack Welch’s comments “ludicrous.” “This is a methodology that’s been used for decades. And it is insulting when you hear people just cavalierly say that somehow we’re manipulating numbers,” Solis told Richard Quest of CNN.
Conservative group Americans for Limited Government issued a statement saying that the numbers the Bureau of Labor Statistics “used to calculate the unemployment rate are wrong, or worse manipulated. Given that these numbers conveniently meet Obama’s campaign promises one month before the election” and “Anyone who takes this unemployment report serious is either naive or a paid Obama campaign adviser.”
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham chimed-in on Twitter herself writing, “Jobs #s from Labor Secretary Hilda Solis are total pro-Obama propaganda–labor force participation rate at 30-yr low. Abysmal!”
Conn Carroll, a senior writer at the conservative Washington Examiner, took a more moderate approach in tweeting, “I don’t think BLS cooked numbers. I think a bunch of Dems lied about getting jobs. That would have same effect.” and “Would love to see the partisan breakdown of the 873,000 Americans who say they got new jobs.”
“BLS is not manipulating data. Evidence of such would be a scandal of enormous proportions & loss of credibility,” tweeted Tony Fratto, the former deputy press secretary to President George W. Bush.
Brian Wesbury, chief economist at First Trust tweeted, “The jobs #’s may look fishy to some, but if you step back, it’s just a plow horse economy lumbering along.”
On the government front, the Bureau of Labor Statistics firmly rebutted any conspiracy theories and denied any manipulation of data.
BLS economist Steve Haugen criticized anyone claiming foul play. “The data are not manipulated for political reasons. I’ve been involved in the process myself for almost three decades. There’s never been any political manipulation of the data, period,” Haugen told CBSNews.com. Haugen further explained that the quick drop was fueled in part by college students and others working temporary summer jobs left the market sooner than expected.
The revisions of 86,000 new jobs being added in July and August was also a contributing factor to unemployment falling below 8 percent for the first time since January 2009.
It’s pretty easy to straddle the fence on the topic. Do I think that the data is completely fictional? No. Would I put it past a political party to find a way to leverage a key metric of the state of our economy during one of the tensest political atmospheres that we’ve seen in a long time? No, to that as well. One thing is for sure, with only a month to elections, the intensity of the campaigns are only going to escalate.