Matthews lets Jack Welch use misleading figures to tout Bush economyJuly 17, 2006 5:17 PM EDT ››› ROB DIETZ
On the July 12 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews failed to challenge former General Electric CEO Jack Welch when Welch praised "household numbers" released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), showing that "we grew over 300,000 jobs last month." As Media Matters for America previously noted, of the two surveys released by BLS, the household survey is widely considered to be a less accurate measure of job growth than the payroll survey. The household survey contacts a sample of 60,000 households each month, while the payroll survey contacts a sample of 160,000 employers each month, and is, therefore, thought to be a more accurate monthly indicator of the job market. Matthews allowed Welch to cite the higher figure even after former Labor Secretary Robert Reich told Matthews one day earlier that the payroll survey was the more accurate measurement. Additionally, after the new surveys were released, the Bush administration cited the figure from the payroll survey on its website, while making no mention of the household survey.
Welch's number of "over 300,000" was taken from the household survey. According to the household survey, the economy added 387,000 jobs in June, but the payroll survey showed that the economy added 121,000.
As The New York Times reported on March 6, 2004, BLS commissioner Kathleen P. Utgoff described the establishment survey as "the best indicator of current job trends." Similarly, former Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan stated that "[e]verything we've looked at suggests that it's the payroll data which are the series which you have to follow," according to an August 10, 2004, column by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. The Chicago Tribune also noted on August 7, 2004, that because the household survey queries only about 60,000 households, it is consequently "considered less reliable."
Welch used the household numbers to say, "I'm a strong Bush supporter. I love what he's done with the economy." But the Los Angeles Times found the payroll figure of 121,000 to be "surprisingly weak" and The New York Times reported that the new figure was an "indicati[on] that the economy was slowing."
As Media Matters has noted, right-wing commentators have highlighted the household survey in the past to portray the job survey in a "rosier" light.
From the July 12 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
WELCH: Well, I mean, how can you say, I mean, I don't know how they say this. Look at reality. We've got 4.6-percent unemployment, the household numbers said we grew over 300,000 jobs last month, but one way to look at this, the power of this economy is this one, Chris. I always like this number. Go from mid-2003 to today, and the U.S. economy has grown $2.2 to $2.3 trillion. That's equal to the size of the whole Chinese economy. That's the power of this economy and what it's done in the last 30 months.
WELCH: I'm a strong Bush supporter. I love what he's done with the economy. I believe in what he's done. The deficit is down to 2.3 percent, the economy, we can handle that. But I am concerned as heck about Iraq, about terrorism. I think we've done a fabulous job so far against terrorism around the world, with lots of organizations, but I personally don't know how Iraq is going to end, and that concerns me. Do you know the answer?