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EDITORIAL: Obama’s fudged unemployment numbers

Official jobless statistics aren’t working

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It says a lot when a government jobs report is so out of line with reality that no thoughtful person can take it seriously. At best the new unemployment number is a fluke; at worst it is the product of partisan hacks.

The Department of Labor reported Friday that total nonfarm payroll employment increased by a net 114,000 in September. This poor showing -- it reflects a 28,000 drop from the previous month -- should have resulted in unemployment increasing by a tenth of a percent. Instead, it dropped by 0.3 percent to 7.8 percent. Call that Chicago-style math.

The official jobless rate is now down to around where it was when Mr. Obama took office, though still higher than what the White House promised it would be after blowing more than a trillion on stimulus programs. Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch was among the first to call shenanigans on the dramatically favorable unemployment figure, echoing a general skepticism from all but the most credulous of Mr. Obama's defenders.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said she was "insulted" by charges that there was something fishy going on. She then betrayed her own ignorance of the facts by saying the 86,000 jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) discovered in the last two months were private-sector jobs. They were actually government hires. Private-sector employment fell last month by a net of 5,000. Manufacturing jobs were down 16,000. Mrs. Solis threw her underlings under the bus, saying "the information that I received is given to me by our professional, civil service staff in the BLS." Perhaps these are the same BLS economists whom the Washington Free Beacon reports have contributed thousands to the Obama campaign.

This fudged figure allowed Mr. Obama to evade the sort of negative headlines that George H.W. Bush suffered in October 1992 when unemployment was 7.7 percent. Bill Clinton called it the worst economic record of any president in 50 years. Reuters described the 1992 report as "the final nail in the coffin" for George H.W. Bush. The same news service hailed Mr. Obama's 7.8 percent number as "providing a boost to his re-election bid." The liberal press seems to have mislaid its coffin nails.

There's good reason to question the latest fantasy figure. The U-6 unemployment rate, which factors out low-paying, part-time jobs, remains lodged at 14.7 percent. The percentage of long-term unemployed is four times what it was five years ago. There are still 10 million fewer jobs than at the start of the recession. The number of new weekly jobless claims is up. The number of people on unemployment benefits and food stamps is at record levels. People know in their gut that things aren't getting better. On main street America, "for lease" signs have replaced grand opening signs. Many malls are vacant and warehouses empty. Middle-class Americans see shrinking paychecks and a rising cost of living. A single massaged, distorted and misleading government datum doesn't change any of that.

The Washington Times

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