Report Claims Government Unemployment Numbers In 2012 Were Fake

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As Barack Obama marched toward re-election last year, he was buoyed by a slowly, but steadily improving job market and a dropping unemployment rate. Now opponents who doubted those figures all along believe they have the proof that the number was deliberately rigged.

John Crudele of The New York Post writes that there was evidence of fraud taking place at the Census Bureau as far back as 2010, and that the fake data was used to calculate the monthly unemployment number. He also cites sources who say that manipulation still goes on today and affected the unemployment report in the lead-up to Obama's re-election. The unemployment number just happened to drop from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent in the two months before the November vote.

The monthly employment number is determined by a survey, conducted by the Census Department, where people are literally called and asked if they have job. That results of that survey are given to the Labor Department, which uses them in their calculations of unemployed Americans. Crudele claims that an employee named Julius Buckmon was caught fabricating interviews to make it look like he had done more work than he had, and Buckmon tells the Post that he was encouraged to do so by "higher-ups." By making up interviewees and giving them jobs, he could theoretically have boosted the data falsely.

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There are some caveats to consider in this explanation of events, however. Buckmon was accused of misdeeds in 2010, when it sounds as if he (like thousands of temporary workers) was building the actual once-in-a-decade census. (Although the same data is used in both reports.) There's no other evidence of wrongdoing in 2012, other than an anonymous source who says the lies "escalated" and "continues today." The story also doesn't explain how the unemployment survey seemed to be in line with most of the other economic data complied about jobs over the last two year, even separate surveys conducted by non-government agencies. Unless, of course, the Labor Department subterfuge goes way deeper that reported.

However, it is troubling that a Census worker was accused of fabricating data and nothing appears to have come from a rather meager investigation. For the system to work, the numbers must be trustworthy and any manipulation — or attempt to cover it up — must be dealt with properly. Buckmon's story needs to be gotten to the bottom of.

Conservatives were already suspicious of the declining unemployment numbers last year, particularly in September, when the rate suddenly dropped to 7.8 percent at a rather fortuitous time for the President. While there are some big questions that aren't fully answered by Crudele's story, it may be enough to spark yet another Congressional investigation. And it will certainly create more distrust of an administration that's fighting for credibility on other fronts.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.