Is 7.8 Obama's October surprise or is it a gift from BLS donors? | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Is 7.8 Obama's October surprise or is it a gift from BLS donors?

Posted: October 7, 2012 - 5:26pm

Last Friday morning’s jobs report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is being met with skepticism. The report found that, from August to September, the unemployment rate dropped from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent. The Labor Department said Friday that employers added 114,000 jobs in September.

In fact, when Labor Secretary Hilda Solis appeared on CNBC this morning, the first two questions for her were whether the books have been cooked: Solis called the charges insulting and “ludicrous.”

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former economics adviser to John McCain and the former head the Congressional Budget Office, calls the numbers “implausible.”

“September unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent due to an extraordinary – but implausible – estimate of 873,000 jobs in household survey,” said Holtz-Eakin on Twitter.

And the Wall Street Journal warns that these numbers should be taken “with a grain of salt.”

Why would anyone question these statistics? Well, at least two economists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) have contributed to President Barack Obama’s campaign. Harley Frazis of Bethesda, Md., has contributed at least $2,000 to Obama and $9,000 to the Democratic National Convention over the last three election cycles. During his time at BLS, Harley has published a number of papers including his most recent, “How to Think About Time-Use Data: What Inferences Can We Make About Long-and Short-Run Time Use from Time Diaries?”

Stephen Phillips of Washington, D.C., has contributed at least $270 to Obama during the 2012 cycle. According to his LinkedIn profile, Phillips served as an economist at BLS between June 2009 and July 2012. Phillips was responsible for examining the impact of Obamacare on Healthcare North American Industry Classification System indices.

Skeptics are wondering how a decline in the unemployment rate for September could be so different from the trend over the last few months. Some charge that is just a political slight of hand by the administration to “cook the books.”

I wonder if these numbers will be revised after the election or before, as has often been the case in the BLS reporting of the unemployed.

All of this politicking, if that’s what it is, could have something to do with the fact that no standing president has been elected with the unemployment rate above 8 percent.

Keith Hansen