Saturday, April 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

More fudging on jobs numbers

Why can't we get all just get along when it comes to using jobs numbers? Here's another example of using data to political advantage.

More fudging on jobs numbers

Those who even occassionally follow this blog or my Daily News political column know I've been fighting hard to find and report the truth about the state's and the nation's job numbers.

It's clear that Republican and Democratic politicians, parties and administrations cherrypick such numbers to their own advantage.

I've reported, for example, Gov. Corbett likes to use private-sector only numbers in arguing the state's economy created a "remarkable" number of jobs since he took office while ignoring public-sector job losses that, when added to the equation, show Pennsylvania created fewer jobs than any other large state during the same period.

Well, now, comes a report from the respected FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at Penn, showing how President Obama's treasury secretary, Jack Lew, is cherrypicking numbers too.

Lew recently claimed the national ecomomy is "seeing growth in manufacturing jobs, more new manufacturing jobs than in most recent periods."

FactCheck points out there actually has been a decline in such jobs for four straight months, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for a total loss of 24,000 manufacturing jobs.

The data watchdogs suggest Lew is borrowing from a 2012 campaign line used by (tada!) Joe Biden who claimed the Obama administration added 430,000 manufacturing jobs since taking office.

But like the Corbett claim, the Obama claim ignores job losses, in this case in manufacturing during the same period.

FactCheck concludes that Lew's boast of growth in manufacturing "is not only incomplete, but wrong."

I've suggested in past that part of the problem here is the staggering amount of data produced by the Labor Department. But I've also suggested there are ways to present the data to show a more complete and accurate picture of job numbers at the state and national level.

So all we need is for both sides to stop offering only that information that makes them look good and start (and I know this sounds naive) using complete data and getting us all as close as possible to the truth about jobs.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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