- - Sunday, February 8, 2015

Telling lies with statistics is so easy even a politician can do it. An economist named Darrell Huff once wrote a best-seller about it, “How to Lie With Statistics.” Harry S. Truman identified three kinds of lies, “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” That was more than a half-century ago, and the art and science of prevarication have only been improved through frequent use.

President Obama won the “Lie of the Year Award” in 2013, given by the fact-checking team at the Tampa Bay Times (“if you like your health care plan you can keep it”), and he has taken an early lead this year with his claim that he has produced a “robust economy” with an unemployment rate that has fallen under 6 percent. In his State of the Union address last month, Mr. Obama said the jobless rate “is now lower than it was before the financial crisis” of 2007-2008. That’s a lie by statistic.

The Labor Department in its monthly unemployment rate, reported Friday, said that the jobless rate rose one-tenth of 1 percent from 5.6 percent to 5.7 percent in January, which it attributes to those who had stopped looking for work now re-entering the labor market, encouraged by a “booming” economy. Mr. Obama attributes the “boom” to his big-spending ways, and his 2016 budget calls for more poison.

Unlike the “official” jobless rate, the Labor Department’s so-called “U-6” unemployment rate includes those working part time but who want a full-time job and can’t find one. The U-6 rate stood at 11.2 percent in December, nearly double the official rate.

Mr. Obama’s claim of a robust jobless rate takes no account of the record 92.9 million Americans no longer in the labor force. The labor participation rate was 62.7 percent in December, a 38-year low that recalled the “economic malaise” of the Carter presidency.

The administration’s jobless-rate claims fool no one beyond the Beltway, and certainly not Jim Clifton, the president and CEO of the Gallup polling organization. Mr. Clifton calls the 5.6 percent unemployment rate “the Big Lie.” Chastising mainstream media and Wall Street for “cheerleading for this number,” he says it’s “extremely misleading.”

Mr. Clifton notes the inconvenient truth that if someone is “so hopelessly out of work that you’ve stopped looking [for a job] over the past four weeks,” the Labor Department “doesn’t count you as unemployed.” If you work one hour a week and are paid at least $20, “you’re not officially counted as unemployed” in the under 6 percent figure.

Separately, Gallup reported Thursday that its own measure of underemployment stood at 15.8 percent for January. Gallup calculates the underemployment rate by combining the percentage of adults in the workforce who are unemployed with those who are working part time but want full-time work.

“Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed,” Mr. Clifton says. “Trust me, the vast majority of them aren’t throwing parties to toast ‘falling’ unemployment.”

The Obama administration continues to tout the 5.7 percent jobless rate while a record number of discouraged Americans have dropped out of the labor market. What does it say about Mr. Obama, who promised the most “transparent” administration ever, that he touts jobless numbers so transparently phony? It’s par for a president who claims credit for cutting “our deficits … by two-thirds” after expanding them to record levels. Even the excuse of “statistics” can’t cover such whoppers.

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