During the May 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox News business analyst and co-host of Fox News' The Five, Eric Bolling, continued his attack on “the big employment number” calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an agency that Bolling has repeatedly suggested is “becoming a partisan department” as the unemployment rate has dropped under President Obama. In today's version of his weekly attack, Bolling asked “where do they come up with the number” for the labor force participation and conclude the number comes “out of thin air” to make the estimate look “better than what the actual job number really is.”
But the BLS doesn't pull labor force participation “out of thin air.” The BLS's website, explicitly details how it derives the employment numbers it releases every month.
The agency starts by using data pulled by a monthly survey of 60,000 households or about 110,000 people conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. This "Current Population Survey" asks demographic and employment questions ultimately determining who is “employed,” “unemployed,” and “out of the work force.”
The employed are people who:
[D]id any work at all for pay or profit during the survey week. This includes all part-time and temporary work, as well as regular full-time, year-round employment.
The unemployed include people who “do not have jobs, have actively looked for work... and are currently available to work.” People "[a]ctively looking for work," include those who confirmed via the Census' survey that they are contacting employers directly, through employment agencies, friends/relatives or school/university employment centers, and those who are sending out resumes/filling out applications, answering advertisements, checking union registers or performing other job searches.
People “not in the labor force” are those who “have no jobs and are not looking for a job.” Many of these people “go to school or are retired.” Some of these people are “marginally attached to the labor force,” people who do not have jobs and are not actively seeking a job but “who nevertheless have demonstrated some degree of labor force attachment.” Others are “discouraged workers,” people who are not looking for work because:
1. They believe no job is available to them in their line of work or area.
2. They had previously been unable to find work.
3. They lack the necessary schooling, training, skills, or experience.
4. Employers think they are too young or too old, or they face some other type of discrimination
All this information is aggregated, and “weighted” or:
[A]djusted to independent population estimates (based on updated decennial census results). The weighting takes into account the age, sex, race, Hispanic ethnicity, and State of residence of the person, so that these characteristics are reflected in the proper proportions in the final estimates.
From this weighted data the BLS pulls the unemployment percentage, and information related to the number of jobs added or lost in a month, or as Bolling puts it “the big unemployment number.”
Bolling's baseless attacks on the BLS as a “partisan agency” and their unemployment estimate as untrustworthy is not simply inaccurate. It's also the latest example of the right-wing media's attempt to discredit an objectively improving economy and employment situation.
BOLLING: [F]or the last few months, I've been coming on and saying it's very strange that big unemployment number, the first Friday of every month we're going to get it tomorrow -- first Friday of every month seems to be skewed. The department may be coming partisan. I say it on air and the left goes absolutely bonkers, they call me a conspiracy theorist. But look what's going on these revisions are revised up, on the big number. If you add in the 3 1/2 million people who left the work force that they say, you add that back in, we're approaching 10% unemployment. The problem is, we don't know what they use to qualify that number. How many people came out of the work force. Where do they come up with the number? Out of thin air. It's always, always looking better than what the actual job number really is.