During a 10-minute segment on Fox News, host Eric Bolling engaged in a series of baseless smears and conspiracy theories to attack the positive jobs report. Economists, however, agree that these attacks are baseless and that data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is accurate.
While guest-hosting Fox News' Your World, Bolling attacked the BLS, which reported this morning that the unemployment rate has dropped from 8.2 percent to 7.8 percent. Bolling -- whose guest, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, also questioned the BLS data -- cast doubt on the report by repeatedly claiming the numbers didn't "feel right."
Bolling went on suggest bias in the BLS by highlighting two employees "who both have been donors to the Obama campaign" and asking if we should "make any assumptions on that." Welch responded by calling the Labor Department "ideologues" and claiming they "bankrupted the auto industry" and "handed the companies over to the unions."
Later in the segment, Welch said it was a "coincidence" that "one month before the election, we have a number that comes out one-tenth below when the president took office," suggesting it came from "an ideologue division of the federal government." Bolling replied: "I don't believe in coincidence."
Economic experts, however, have dismissed the type of conspiracy peddling that Bolling engaged in today. In an interview with Salon, economist Justin Wolfers pushed back on the attacks:
First, if you know and understand the BLS and its structure -- its statutory structure and its employment structure -- you understand this simply isn't how things happen. The BLS is independent of the Department of Labor. If you go to the BLS website, you won't even find a picture of the Secretary of Labor there. It's completely firewalled.
Secondly: Who believes the numbers are being manipulated? Certainly you could look at your twitter feed and Fox news and worry about it right now, but sophisticated players clearly don't. Watch what happened to the stock market -- if there was something wrong with the numbers that wingnuts on fringe blogs could figure out, presumably savvy financial market traders would have figured the same thing out as well. But savvy financial market traders are clearly trading as if this morning's report was good news. Very good news. So these people have to be claiming that not only is there a conspiracy but that they are smarter and more aware of it than Goldman Sachs and various other savvy financial market traders.
Former BLS chief economist Betsey Stevenson tweeted earlier today: "Anyone who thinks that political folks can manipulate the unemp[loymen]t data are completely ignorant about how BLS works & how data are compiled." Economic Policy Insitute president Lawrence Mishel called attacks on the report a "slanderous lie," noting:
BLS is a highly professional agency with dozens of people involved in the tabulation and analysis of these data. The idea that the data are manipulated is just completely implausible. Moreover, the data trends reported are clearly in line with previous monthly reports and other economic indicators (such as GDP).
All in all, there was nothing particularly strange about this month's jobs reports--and certainly nothing to spur accusations of outright fraud.