BLS or BS?

Will the Bureau of Labor Statistics release the October jobs report Friday? They hinted Monday that they might not.

Last month, eyebrows raised when the jobless rate dropped to 7.8%. Seemed awfully convenient to the under 8% number Obama had promised during his presidency. People like former GE CEO Jack Welch found the number a little unplugged. Former Bush administration economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin said:

In September, the payroll survey — derived from asking employers how many people they employed that month — showed that the economy created 114,000 jobs. This is consistent with an economy growing at 1 to 2 percent. The household survey — derived from asking households who in the house has a job — showed a stunning 873,000 new jobs. This is this highest that number has been since June of 1983. This makes no sense; it is out of line with any of the other data on the economy for September.

Even more amazing, more than 560,000 of those are part-time jobs. That is really stunning. One would expect that as extended unemployment benefits expire (and they are), some workers would migrate back to employment — that is a tried-and-true economic link. Some of those might first end up in a part-time setting. But why 560,000? And why in September?

Why, indeed, if not to help the president.

BuzzFeed talked to former Bush administrator Tony Fratto who has defended the BLS

warned that any delay could post a “reputational disaster” to the agency.

“As you know I have been a loud, public defender of the Bureau,” he told BuzzFeed. “They are professionals, non-political, and the very best in the world at what they do. But my recommendation to them — as someone who wants to protect their credibility — please report the data as you see it. It would be a reputational disaster if BLS delayed under these circumstances. Move heaven and earth to report the data on time. Hurricane Katrina numbers were able to be reported and explained. Find a way to report these numbers, too.”

The fact that they are vacillating should ring alarm bells to Americans. Already we have doubted the truthfulness of their reports. After they readjust the weekly jobless claims to skew for a better number, sending them up during the week for a better contrast with the previous week, Americans are wary of them. Now they are confirming them.

Are they doing it to help Obama? Is the number that bad? Maybe. After all, Rahm Emanuel famously said never let a good crisis go to waste. Sandy may be that crisis.

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