Predictably, skeptics about the federal jobs numbers released yesterday are being labeled as “jobs truthers” in many quarters. Those alleging a flat-out conspiracy are being treated as nutcases. As Politico notes, even some Republicans are trying to throw cold water on the theories being floated that assert the unemployment rate is only declining because of an effort to cook the figures to benefit President Obama. The skeptics, like former GE CEO Jack Welch and Rep. Alan West, are taking a beating in the press. Though the dip in unemployment is both anomalous in terms of other economic numbers and quite fortuitous for Obama, no one has produced any proof of wrongdoing by the Bureau of Labor Statistics so we must take them at their word. But, as Politico wrote, “just because the numbers are honest, doesn’t mean they’re accurate.” Even worse, the blatant distortion of the numbers by a biased media is far worse than anything the so-called “truthers” might produce.
It is not just, as John Podhoretz wrote on Friday, that many in the business world are taking this blip in an otherwise dreadful economic environment as an aberration, or as John Steele Gordon pointed out (as Welch did) that the volatile household survey contradicted the payroll survey. It is also that the press spin about the numbers is very different from the way they’ve treated similar reports in the past. Even though the New York Times treated the new statistics as a triumph for President Obama, as Ed Morrissey wrote at Hotair.com, a very similar jobs report in October 2004 was represented in the New York Times as a blow to the re-election hopes of George W. Bush and a boost to John Kerry. The same was true of the coverage of PBS, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune. The stark and obviously partisan reasons for this contrast means that for all of the cheering for the lower unemployment rate, there is very little reason to think the numbers foretell much good news for Americans.