08 October 2010


The apocryphal statement that there are three types of falsehood—lies, damned lies, and statistics—may once again be proved in today's Department of Labor report on employment figures for September. DOL says that employment “edged down” with a loss of 95,000 non-farm jobs, but the percentage remained unchanged at 9.6%. The White House desperately wants some positive number to use in the run up to the November elections, and any molding of the numbers that can help get the desired result will be warmly received.

Since last Spring, the numbers have been inflated by the addition of hundreds of thousands of temporary census workers. As many of those as possible were kept on the rolls for as long as possible. For the first time I can remember, I had visits from multiple census workers, each asking me to confirm the exact information I had mailed in April. I’m glad these folks had “jobs,” but I wish they had been producing something more than favorable numbers for the Democratic Party to use in their press releases. The last of those jobs ended in September.

But there are still ways to cook the books. In New York, folks who were “employed” for two days—as poll workers in the primary elections—are now being counted as employed in September.

“How,” you ask?

In September, the New York City Board of Elections refused to hire any poll workers—previously deemed to be independent contractors—until they filled out IRS forms that would then make them reportable as “employed.” Tens of thousands of poll workers were then in place to be counted by DOL which collects its numbers during the week in which the election was conducted.

But, as the Gallup organization reported, “. . . monitoring of job market conditions suggests that there was a sharp increase in the unemployment rate during the last couple of weeks of September.” Read the full report here. Gallup reports that the true unemployment figure for September is probably closer to 10.1%, rather than the 9.6% reported by the DOL today.

The October numbers will not be reported until after the November 2 mid-term elections. I expect that Robert Gibbs will trumpet this report as just another sign that the President’s “plan” is working. Lies, damned lies, and statistics, indeed.