Could The Jobs Numbers Be 'Cooked'?
After months of tepid jobs reports, the Labor Department reported Friday that nation's unemployment fell to a level not seen since before President Obama took office in January 2009, 7.8 percent.
That was good news for job hunters and workers -- and of course, President Obama. So immediately the conspiracy theories started flying, with none other than Jack Welch, esteemed former chairman and CEO of General Electric Co., claiming that the Obama administration "cooked" the numbers in advance of November's election to aid in his reelection. Shortly after the jobs report was released Friday, Welch tweeted:
Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers- Jack Welch (@jack_welch) October 5, 2012
Welch was referring to Obama's debate performance Wednesday against Republican nominee Mitt Romney, which some critics called weak.
Welch, who made his career by developing successful ways to motivate employees, might want to give career civil servants at the Labor Department a little more credit than to suggest they tampered with government data. Further, as The Washington Post notes, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is set up to ensure the White House has no ability to influence it.
Wlech was slammed by critics on Twitter, and #jackwelch became a trending term. As financial blogger Felix Salmon of Reuters wrote on Twitter in response to Welch:
Mitt Romney was also critical of the report, despite the good news it contained. "This is not what a real recovery looks like," he said in a statement.
So what's behind the sudden drop? It wasn't that employers started hiring masses of workers in September -- the nation added just 114,000 jobs last month. Rather, it was upward revisions to the two previous months' job-creation numbers that are being credited for the drop in joblessness.
Unlike last month's drop in the unemployment rate to 8.1 percent, which initially credited the decline to workers giving up looking for work, September's data showed no such trend. In other words, the rate dropped because more people -- 873,000 -- reported finding jobs and weren't counted as leaving the workforce.
Other good news:
- The number of discouraged workers -- those who have given up looking for work because they don't believe there any jobs available for them -- fell to 802,000, a decline of 235,000 from a year ago.
- The tally of workers out of work for fewer than five weeks declined by 302,000 during the month to 2.5 million, suggesting that newly unemployed people are having an easier time in finding new jobs.
- The overall unemployment rate among veterans fell to 6.7 percent last month from 8.1 percent a year ago. The percentage of female veterans, however, rose to 13.2 percent from 9.7 percent in September 2011.
- Health care continues to be a job-creation engine. The sector added 44,000 jobs last month, including 8,000 new jobs at hospitals. During the past year, health-care employment has risen by nearly 300,000 jobs.
Despite the relatively strong report, there are still signs that many unemployed people will continue to face headwinds in trying a job:
- Employers added only 114,000 jobs last month, barely enough to keep up with population growth, and not enough to help drive down the unemployment rate.
- The manufacturing sector, which had been a bright spot for job creation until August, lost 16,000 jobs in September, including a loss of 3,400 jobs at vehicle and auto-parts plants, suggesting that manufacturers aren't hiring as they once were.
- Though the number of workers unemployed for 27 weeks or more dropped, there are still 4.84 million long-term jobless -- and the longer they remain unemployed, the harder it will be for them to find work.
To be sure, there was lots of good news in the September jobs report, but still plenty of reason to remain cautious. "It's an OK report," Bill Kosteas, economist at Cleveland State University, told the Marketplace Morning Report radio program. "We'll have to look to see the revisions to [September's data] next month, since we've been getting some pretty sizable revisions."
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David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. The syndicated column appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide before it made its debut on DailyFinance in 2010. Schepp now continues that tradition at Aol Jobs, covering the jobs beat and providing readers insight and analysis into the nation's challenging employment scene.
Schepp holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Metropolitan State College of Denver.
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