The conspiracy theory about the Obama Administration forcing the Bureau of Labor Statistics into deliberately fixing the September jobs report has found its purchase in the most likely of places: the House Republican caucus. Darrell Issa, the chair of the House Oversight Committee, told Fox Business Network this morning that he would open an investigation into the derivation of the numbers in the jobs report.
“The way it’s being done with the constant revisions — significant revisions — tells us that it’s not as exact a science as it needs to be,” Issa told Fox. “We very much intend to work every day through the November and December time to get these kinds of things done … this is an issue where I think our committee has important jurisdiction to make sure we get it right.”
Issa is the latest prominent conservative to question the official jobs numbers [...]
Jack Welch, a columnist and former chairman and CEO of General Electric, suggested in a Friday tweet that the Obama administration had manipulated the jobs data for political reasons. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) and a number of conservative journalists agreed with Welch.
Maybe Issa threw this out as a way to get FBN, which has been the most rabid about the BLS conspiracy theory, off his back. Indeed, a spokesman for Issa followed up and said that he has “not decided to hold hearings” just yet.
But if Issa does go forward, keep in mind that this would represent the conservative world catching up to Darrell Issa, not vice-versa. He started investigating Department of Labor jobs reporting in JUNE. They even brought the acting commissioner of the BLS before the panel.
The Committee examined proposed changes to the Department’s current policy giving certain media organizations early access to those reports, allowing them to house their own computer systems inside the Labor Department for distributing the reports.
Members also asked about how the Department comes up with statistics for so-called green jobs [...]
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee questioned Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Acting Commissioner John Galvin and others about a series of changes planned by his agency around its release of the government’s jobs report and other key data.
Lawmakers explored the possible political tone of data-release practices at the Labor of Department (DOL). BLS’s technological updates and other innovations led the department to change its procedures.
So this started with Issa and the GOP questioning the derivation of “green jobs” numbers, as well as how the data gets reported. That provided the opening to question the politicization of the BLS. And a few months later, Jack Welch pushes the envelope a bit further.
I should note that the substance of Issa’s critique – that the jobs reports lead to significant revisions – is baloney. First of all, the problem lies with the political class and analysts paying so much attention to the first series of reports. They have always had substantial revisions. Plus, as Larry Mishel points out, the household surveys and the payroll surveys eventually dovetail, showing comparable statistics (BLS truthers have a problem with the household survey, which showed large growth in September; the payroll survey wasn’t all that great). In fact, the household survey shows less job growth than the payroll survey since the worst of the job loss ended in June 2009. The data are very robust, and once more comes in, it always smooths out into something that plausible tracks the labor market situation.
Maybe Issa can add first-time unemployment claims into his hearing: they fell last week to the lowest level in four years.