Officials reject conspiracies on unemployment rate
The Obama administration was forced to defend Labor’s statisticians and economists against accusations that came without supporting evidence.
The monthly jobs report is prepared with raw data collected by Census workers. The workers interview Americans in about 60,000 households or visit them door-to-door.
People are asked whether they’re employed and, if so, whether their jobs are full or part time. The Census workers gather other information about the respondents’ education, age and gender and ask whether they’re self-employed.
Most of the interviews are done in the week that includes the 19th day of the month. The resulting pile of data is transferred securely by Census to BLS about a week before the jobs report is due.
The office suites where the report is prepared and compiled goes on lockdown. Employees can’t access the area without a hard pass. Staffers working on a paper copy of the report are expected to keep it under lock and key if they aren’t at their desk — even when they go to lunch.
The security isn’t just about keeping the data free of political pressure. The unemployment figures, if leaked early, could improperly move financial markets.
“We strive to be like Joe Friday, just presenting the facts,” he said.
A draft of the report is completed by early Wednesday before the Friday when it’s released. Several groups of staffers review it. That Wednesday is usually the earliest that the commissioner of the BLS gets involved.
On Thursday afternoon, the report is sent to the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors. Krueger provides a copy to the president.
Hilda Solis, Obama’s labor secretary, doesn’t see the report until around 8 a.m. Friday, a half-hour before its public release.
A week later, Labor releases the raw data on its website. Many academics use the data, which is stripped of all identifying information, for their own research.
The commissioner is the BLS‘ only political appointee. And even he or she operates independently of the presidential administration. The Obama administration has selected a new commissioner: Erica Groshen, a vice president at the New York Federal Reserve. She has yet to be approved by the Senate.
On Friday, Romney refrained from discrediting the government data. But plenty of conservatives did that work for him.