Steep drop in unemployment rate spawns conspiracy

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The BLS, the statistical division of the Labor Department, collected and analyzed data and calculated the unemployment rate before Wednesday night’s presidential debate.

Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors, said that it’s “not that unusual” for the rate to move by three-tenths of a percent in one month. It’s happened 12 times in the past 10 years.

“In other words, at least once a year, you should expect that large a move,” he said in an email to clients. It last happened 20 months ago, “so we were overdue. That is just the reality of the data.”

Romney didn’t discredit the government data. But plenty of conservatives did that work for him.

Conn Carroll, an editorial writer at the Washington Examiner, tweeted: “I don’t think BLS cooked numbers. I think a bunch of Dems lied about getting jobs. That would have same effect.”

Rick Manning, communications director of Americans for Limited Government and the former public affairs chief of staff at the Labor Department, said “anyone who takes this unemployment report serious is either naive or a paid Obama campaign adviser.”

Rep. Paul Broun, a Georgia Republican, weighed in with a statement saying the report “raises questions for me, and frankly it should be raising eyebrows for people across the country.”

Economists offered more plausible reasons for skepticism. A big chunk of the increase in employed Americans came from those who had to settle for part-time work: 582,000 more people reported that they were working part-time last month but wanted full-time jobs.

Conspiracy theories are nothing new for Obama. He has been dogged by discredited claims that he wasn’t born in this country and that he is Muslim.

“Stop with the dumb conspiracy theories. Good grief,” Tony Fratto, who worked for President George W. Bush, weighed in on Twitter.

It wasn’t just the political elite commenting. Angelia Levy, a researcher at the Federal Judicial Center, the research arm of the federal judiciary, told her 588 Twitter followers that Welch’s comments were “unbelievable.”

“All of the sudden they’re questioning this data that’s been reported for decades,” the Democrat said in a phone interview. “It’s so hypocritical and ridiculous.”

Justin Wolfers, a professor of business and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, went on Twitter to say Welch “just labeled himself an idiot.”

In a follow-up phone call, Wolfers said the economists who calculate the monthly jobs report “are nerds who spend their lives crunching numbers for the public service. To impute their integrity is outrageous.”

The agency has been in the political glare before.

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