Regarding today;'s employment numbers, Republicans were absolutely rooting for failure; alas for them, there's a tiny glimmer of success -- the numbers ought to be a lot better, but the unemployment rate is now at 7.8 percent, a 44-month low.
Jack Welch, Allen West, and a whole lot of other right-wingers think the Bureau of Labor Statistics is cooking the books for Obama -- which reminds me of a classic movie scene:
As Ezra Klein says:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is set up to ensure the White House has no ability to influence it. As labor economist Betsey Stevenson wrote, “anyone who thinks that political folks can manipulate the unemployment data are completely ignorant of how the BLS works and how the data are compiled.” Plus, if the White House somehow was manipulating the data, don’t you think they would have made the payroll number look a bit better than 114,000? No one would have batted an eye at 160,000.Yup -- and if the books could have been cooked, why wouldn't the administration have been cooking them for months now?
None of this changes my opinion that these reports mean nothing to voters. The reason is simple: voters assess the labor situation based on their own real-life experiences, as well as the experiences of their friends, relatives, neighbors, and fellow employees. They don't need the government to tell them whether things are bad. If they're laid off and then struggle to find work, or if they see lots of layoffs around them, they're anxious. They don't need statisticians to validate their anxiety.
Here's a comparison: Every weekend, the news tells me about the results of Trilby Lundberg's weekly survey of gas prices in America. On this subject, journalists are sensible: they don't treat Lundberg's weekly gas-price average as a huge influence on public opinion about the price of gas. In an election year, they don't say, "Both candidates are anxiously awaiting the results of this week's Lundberg Survey -- if gas prices are up, that could hurt the incumbent."
Why? Because everyone knows that people don't need to be told how much gas costs. People buy gas. They know how much it costs.
Well, people live in the job market. They know how good or bad the job market is. The BLS just boils that reality down to numbers.
Nevertheless, I'm happy that the report is better than it could have been, because all the insiders obsess over its possible political impact. So it's throwing the Romney campaign off stride. Good.