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Labor Secretary Says Talk Of Fudged Jobless Numbers Is Insulting

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.
Kevork Djansezian
/
Getty Images
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

The news that the nation's jobless rate fell to 7.8 percent in September from 8.1 percent in August immediately led some of President Obama's critics to charge the the books had been cooked to help his reelection campaign.

"Unbelievable jobs numbers," tweeted former General Electric CEO Jack Welch. "These Chicago guys [the Obama campaign] will do anything ... can't debate so change numbers."

On CNBC, Tea Party favorite Rick Santelli declared that "I told you they'd get it under 8 percent — they did!"

Conservative commentator Monica Crowley tweeted about an "October surprise: 43 consecutive months of above 8% unemployment, & 1 month before election, the rate miraculously drops to 7.8%. Ahem."

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has had a chance to respond to such talk: "I'm insulted when I hear that, because we have a very professional civil service," she said on CNBC. "I have the highest regard for our professionals that do the calculations at the (Bureau of Labor Statistics). They are trained economists."

At another point she called the charges "ludicrous."

Our colleagues at Planet Money have previously reported about the lengths BLS goes to in an effort to keep its work secret and away from outside influence.

This isn't the last jobs report before the Nov. 6 election. October's figures are due on Nov. 2. Watch for more fireworks then.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.

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