The timing was almost too convenient–on the heels of a Presidential debate performance that was either disappointing or embarrassing for Barack Obama (depending on your ideological stripes) the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released unemployment figures that were–relatively speaking at least–reasonably good. The U-3 unemployment rate dropped from 8.1% in August to 7.8% in September. These figures are significant for a couple of reasons–it’s the first time the unemployment rate has been below 8% since February 2009 and equals the 7.8% unemployment rate from January 2009, the month that Obama took office.
Almost immediately certain right leaning ideologues cried foul, either claiming or strongly implying that Team Obama had ‘cooked the books’. Former GE CEO Jack Welsh tweeted: “Unbelievable jobs numbers. these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers.”
So did the Obama regime manipulate the unemployment report numbers? It’s highly doubtful for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the tendency of partisan politicians to take advantage of such methods for the sake of propaganda if they have the ability. In other words, if Obama or Bush before him had the ability to massage such sensitive economic data why haven’t they done so in the past? While any type of statistical data is subject to distortion or any number of other erroneous uses or interpretation the source of the unemployment figures–the aforementioned BLS–isn’t an ideologically driven component of the bureaucracy. Think geeky career government apparatchiks who are loyal first and foremost to their data.
Of course the numbers themselves aren’t anything to brag about. The United State is currently on pace to create fewer jobs than last year and the 7.8% figure can be attributed to several trends that don’t necessarily buttress the economic case of Team Obama–a lower labor participation rate and more part time workers among these. Perhaps the most compelling argument against data manipulation is the timeline, which isn’t exactly convenient for Obama. Even if the 7.8% number is legit his implicit argument in the unemployment figures is ‘things haven’t gotten any worse than when I took office’. With fewer and fewer people buying into his nonstop blaming of others for problems that have occurred on his watch just maintaining the status quo isn’t a compelling argument for reelection.