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Right-Wing Media Rely On Discredited Evidence To Dismiss Positive Jobs Report

February 03, 2012 10:52 pm ET — 40 Comments

Right-wing media are rushing to put a negative spin on newly released jobs numbers showing a drop in the unemployment rate and a net increase in jobs by parroting the discredited claim that government data show that "1.2 million people dropped out of the labor force" last month. In fact, as economic experts have explained, that number reflected an increase in population from 2010 Census figures and is not the result of how many people "dropped out" of the labor force last month.

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After The Labor Department Reported January Employment Growth

Labor Department: Employment Rose By 243,000 Jobs In January And Unemployment Dropped To 8.3 Percent. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 243,000 in January, and the unemployment rate decreased to 8.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job growth was widespread in the private sector, with large employment gains in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing. Government employment changed little over the month.


The unemployment rate declined by 0.2 percentage point in January to 8.3 percent; the rate has fallen by 0.8 point since August. [Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2/3/12]

NY Times: Two Million Jobs Added In Past Year. The New York Times' Economix blog reported that "[o]ver the last 12 months, the economy added nearly two million jobs, more than in any similar period since early 2007." [The New York Times, Economix, 2/3/12]

Financial Blog Zero Hedge Dismissed Employment Growth With Dubious Claim That "1.2 Million People Dropped Out Of The Labor Force"

Zero Hedge: "1.2 Million People Dropped Out Of The Labor Force In One Month!" A post on economics and finance blog Zero Hedge claimed that the Bureau of Labor Statistics report estimated that "1.2 million people dropped out of the labor force" in January. [Zero Hedge, 2/3/12]

But Experts Argue That The 1.2 Million Number Is Based On A Misreading Of The Jobs Report

Economic Journalist Barry Ritholtz: "The Fact Is 1 Million People Did Not Drop Out Of The Labor Force In January 2012." Economic journalist and Washington Post columnist Barry Ritholtz explained that those who are claiming that 1.2 million people dropped out of the labor force in January are misreading the Labor Department's jobs report:

So today following an otherwise pretty darn good jobs report, we get the usual perma-pessimists at Zero Hedge and Rick Santelli over at CNBC proclaiming that the report showed a drop of over 1 million people from the labor force in one month. Of course, as ususal, both Santelli and Zero Hedge have a real reading comprehension problem and completely missed that this million+ people isn't some new January phenomenon, but a result of the BLS using the 2010 census data to have more accurate data. In other words, the changes in the Household Survey to the various measures had taken place over the years prior to 2010, but for simplicity's sake, the BLS incorporates these changes into one month (which they clearly point out).


[T]he fact is 1 million people did not drop out of the labor force in January 2012. [The Big Picture, 2/3/12]

WSJ: Population Growth Didn't Affect Unemployment Rate. In a post analyzing the jobs report numbers, The Wall Street Journal's Real Time Economics blog explained:

Today's jobs report carries good news on both fronts. The unemployment rate fell, and the employment-population ratio rose. That means the improvement in the labor market is real -- people actually found jobs.

The employment gain wasn't immediately obvious to some observers because of a quirk in this month's report. Every January, the Labor Department readjusts its data to account for changes in the population. The tweaks are especially significant in years like this one that take into account a new decennial census.

This year, the population adjustment makes it look like the employment-population ratio didn't change from December to January. In reality, the ratio improved by 0.3 percentage points. The gains were just masked by the population adjustments.

Here's what happened: According to the Census Bureau, the civilian population grew by 1.5 million people in 2011. But the growth wasn't distributed evenly. Most of the growth came among people 55 and older and, to a lesser degree, by people 16-24 years old. Both groups are less likely to work than people in their mid-20s to early 50s. So the share of the population that's working is actually lower than previously believed. Taking that into account, the employment-population ratio went up. The unemployment rate wasn't affected.

"There was not a big increase in discouraged workers," economist Betsey Stevenson commented on Twitter. "What happened was Census found a bunch of old people we had assumed died." [The Wall Street Journal, 2/3/12]

Time: "The Labor Force Numbers Stayed Essentially The Same." Time reporter Massimo Calabresi wrote:

Some Obama opponents are struggling to find a cloud in the silver lining of January's jobs numbers, which estimated that there was a 243,000-job boost and a big drop in the unemployment rate, from 8.5% to 8.3%, last month. Their biggest gripe focuses on the size of the labor force: As the unemployment rate has trended down over the last few months, anti-Obama commentators have argued that the official percentage for those without jobs is deceptive because the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't count those who have stopped looking for work. In Friday's report, they found a sharp increase in that group: More than 1.2 million people joined the non-job seeking pool of working-age Americans last month.


The demographic adjustments had no effect on the unemployment rate, says Mary Bowler, the resident expert in these matters at the BLS. And when it comes to labor force estimates, the steep jump in the number of those not seeking work came entirely from the census adjustment, which added 1.25 million people to that group. If you take out the census adjustment, the labor force numbers stayed essentially the same, as reflected by the labor force participation rate of 63.7%. In other words, the spike in the number of people no longer looking for work is entirely the result of some people at the Labor Department adding numbers to their spread sheets rather than an actual observed shift anywhere in the real economy. [Time, 2/3/12]

Right-Wing Media Jumped On The Discredited Figure To Dismiss Jobs Report As "Corrupt"

Rush Limbaugh Cited The 1.2 Million Number To Argue That The Jobs Report Is "Corrupt." On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh cited Zero Hedge and claimed that "1.2 million people dropped out of the labor force in one month" to argue that the jobs numbers report is as "corrupt as it can be." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 2/3/12]

Sean Hannity Repeated The 1.2 Million Falsehood To Claim Lower Unemployment Rate Is "Phony." On his radio show, Sean Hannity stated: "It appears that the people not in the labor force exploded by an unprecedented record 1.2 million and that's not a typo. In other words, 1.2 million people dropped out of the labor force in one month." He then explained that what this shows is that the unemployment rate is a "phony number." Hannity added: "This jobs report has limited good news but phony numbers all around it." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 2/3/12]

Fox Nation Highlighted Limbaugh's Charge That Unemployment Rate Number Is "Corrupt." Fox Nation amplified Limbaugh's criticism of the jobs report using the headline: "Rush Slams 'Corrupt' Obama Jobs Stats":

[Fox Nation, 2/3/12]

Drudge: "Record 1.2M Fall Out Of Labor Force." The Drudge Report highlighted the misleading claim that 1.2 million people dropped out of the labor force:

[Drudge Report, 2/3/12]

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    • Author by Liberal in the South (February 03, 2012 11:12 pm ET)
      12 2
      Here's what is most sad, the right wing media harps on the BLS right? Is this not the same BLS that reported for GWB? I mean they report statistics. Does FoxPAC really think the Obama admin has corrupted a statistical analysis organzitation? How far does the paranoia go?

      Report Abuse
      • Author by jaguarundi (February 04, 2012 3:28 am ET)
        Does FoxPAC really think the Obama admin has corrupted a statistical analysis organization? How far does the paranoia go?

        Welcome to the constantly AAAAAAmazing world of Right-Wing Authoritarianism

        I wondered where the broadcasting guidelines of the Reich-Wing came from and finally found it in a book and some speeches from Frank Luntz's mentor:

        “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.”

        “The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it.”

        “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over”
        Report Abuse
        • Author by jaguarundi (February 04, 2012 3:31 am ET)
          Is this better with citation?:

          "If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth."

          "The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it."

          "The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over"

          --Joseph Goebbels
          Report Abuse
      • Author by emeraldblue (February 05, 2012 5:04 pm ET)
        How far does the Obama paranoia go?

        As far as the east is from the west. To the ends of the earth. Forever and a day.

        Obama Derangement Syndrome knows no bounds.
        Report Abuse
      • Author by Martinking68 (February 06, 2012 10:01 am ET)
        The problem is as much as they hate government, they know nothing about it. Federal employees, except politicians and apppointees, are neutrally competent. This means they are their based on their non-political credentials and they don't have political axes to grind, whether a Republican or a Democrat is president.
        Report Abuse
        • Author by Martinking68 (February 06, 2012 10:04 am ET)
          I meant to say "they are hired based on their non-political credentials
          Report Abuse
    • Author by gmccpa (February 03, 2012 11:13 pm ET)
      Too funny. These guys are always touting the 'free market'. Well, that 'free market' certainly liked today's job report. I dont hear the markets complaining.
      Report Abuse
    • Author by n'est-ce pas (February 04, 2012 1:19 am ET)
      Whaaaa? Wingnuts can't do math? How very shocking!
      Report Abuse
    • Author by grmce (February 04, 2012 3:16 am ET)
      It really is quite sad - but I can't help giving a little chuckle.
      Report Abuse
    • Author by thaneb (February 04, 2012 7:36 am ET)
      Nevertheless, the conundrum is how to offset increased "productivity" to achieve the job growth here? Even those manufacturing jobs that stay here or return here are done more and more by robots. Even taking into account ancillary jobs around robotics there is not comparable offset. And it is not only mfg jobs. Computer programs are replacing skilled positions such as translation and legal research. This change in the structure of work feeds the increasing gap in wealth classes while also limiting upward mobility.
      Report Abuse
    • Author by David2012 (February 04, 2012 7:59 am ET)
      Rush and Sean should cheer up. Obama's reelection assures them of at least four more years of spewing to their audiences for the big bucks.

      They like that much better than having to be part of the propaganda arm of a governing Republican.
      Report Abuse
      • Author by Martinking68 (February 06, 2012 10:06 am ET)
        Exactly. To their audiences, they are peaved, but privately they are at least a little glad because that means more angry white men will listen to their nonsense.
        Report Abuse
    • Author by MidnightWriter (February 04, 2012 10:39 am ET)
      Wow. Just wow.

      I understand it was a tough day for the hard right's hardest working paid propagandists. We were already snickering at Romney for his, "I'm not concerned about the very poor," statement, his figuratively bowing before Trump, and would later have the added pleasure of breaking out into loud guffaws over the smackdown Orly Taitz received in Georgia. Those things would have been enough to make many of them start to wish that February 3 was the leap day hoping that they'll not have to endure another 24 hour period like that again for another four years.

      But seriously, this is the spin they offer? Damnation of good news? An insincere effort to discredit what they dare not praise? I had expected an across the board attempt to take backdoor credit for the gains offering themselves the same type of praise they tossed at Bush after Osama bin Laden was killed. Instead we're treated to another example of just how strong the Obama Derangement Syndrome is; one that leaps far over the bizarre scene of how they cheered when it was announced that Chicago would not be hosting the Olympics.

      Those who wish to embrace the Limbaugh/Hannity/Drudge messages on this matter should not be debated with--just laughed at.
      Report Abuse
      • Author by RKAllen (February 04, 2012 12:39 pm ET)
        ...and would later have the added pleasure of breaking out into loud guffaws over the smackdown Orly Taitz received in Georgia.
        There was one thing that I particularly liked about this story.

        "By deciding this matter on the merits, the court in no way condones the conduct or legal scholarship of defendant's attorney, Mr. Jablonski. This decision is entirely based on the law, as well as the evidence and legal arguments presented at the hearing."

        Judge Michael Malihi
        That's right. The judge, while not happy that the defendants did not appear to present their side of the case, was able to make a decision in their favor based on the arguments that the opposition made alone.
        Report Abuse
        • Author by Chameo (February 04, 2012 4:03 pm ET)
          Actually, my favorite part of the judgment was this footnote:

          Originally, Ms. Taitz indicated to the Court that she would offer the testimony of seven witnesses. However, during her closing argument, Ms. Taitz requested to testify. Ms. Taitz was sworn and began her testimony, but shortly thereafter, the Court requested that Ms. Tatiz step-down and submit any further testimony in writing.

          Report Abuse
    • Author by jonimacaroni1 (February 04, 2012 12:05 pm ET)
      8 2
      Rush made this obvious error, and he also made another error - he continuously cited the fact that the jobs numbers are seasonally adjusted - as though the Obama administration is the first one to seasonally adjust these numbers to give us a more accurate portrait of what's happening in America's workforce! The raw numbers aren't the best way to look at this. In many instances, one does need to look at the raw numbers, but with jobs and unemployment, the seasonally-adjusted numbers are much more reflective of what's actually happening.
      Report Abuse
      • Author by jonimacaroni1 (February 06, 2012 12:46 pm ET)
        They can't combat the seasonally-adjusted numbers or the positive job numbers in general, and so they have two choices - lying about them, or doing what they did to John Kerry, distort them so they turn a positive into a negative.

        For normal people, acknowledging good news is a third option. Not for the rightwingers of today.
        Report Abuse
    • Author by phlcstgan (February 04, 2012 3:50 pm ET)
      an unprecedented record

      Christ, Hannity's stupid.
      Report Abuse
    • Author by fo3angels (February 06, 2012 9:57 am ET)
      Payrolls rose by 243,000 jobs, it must have been because 1,200,000 people left the workforce.
      Report Abuse
    • Author by little poncho (February 06, 2012 10:03 am ET)
      wingnuts do well in math, when it involves their own tax breaks$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
      Report Abuse
    • Author by altsoba (February 06, 2012 10:58 am ET)
      Yet again MMFA goes to bat for Obama to try and help him get reelected.

      The Obama administration is going to do anything they can to get the unemployment rate down so they can use it to try and fool people into reelecting him.

      The real unemployment number is much higher than 8.3% but the government does not want the American people to know the truth.
      Below is an article that explains the government lies.

      Unemployment Rate Lies
      Report Abuse
      • Author by kabniel (February 06, 2012 11:28 am ET)
        2 1

        Yet again you prove you are about the stupidest and most brainwashed creature ever to draw breath. Prison Planet? If you cannot come up with a CREDIBLE source then just STFU. This site doesnt try to help Obama get anything. They combat conservative media misinformation. It isnt our fault that the right, much like YOU, lies so much.

        What you want to call the REAL unemployment numbers are ALWAYS higher than the formal rate. It has been that way since AT LEAST Reagan you brainwashed cretin. I know that YOU are a moron but you arent telling us anything we dont know. It is particularly entertaining when you combine your astonishing stupidity with such pitiful condescension.

        Below was propaganda from a fringe website meant ONLY to brainwash the stupidest people on the planet like you CLEARLY are
        Report Abuse
        • Author by altsoba (February 06, 2012 2:50 pm ET)
          And the MMFA source is credible?

          It is you kab that is pathetically stupid and brainwashed.
          Report Abuse
          • Author by Johaely (February 06, 2012 3:35 pm ET)
            The MMFA source is the dept of labor statistics. So yes, worlds apart when it comes to credibility with the DLS winning.
            Report Abuse
            • Author by altsoba (February 06, 2012 4:27 pm ET)
              The MMFA source is Washington Post columnist Barry Ritholtz who claims it is a misreading of the Labor departments jobs report.
              Report Abuse
              • Author by Johaely (February 06, 2012 9:23 pm ET)
                Their numbers come from the DLS. Besides, Barry Ritholz, the WSJ and the NYT are still worlds apart compared to Alex Jones/Greg Hunter.
                Report Abuse
        • Author by ilovedoughnuts (February 06, 2012 10:10 pm ET)
          The mutant freak called kabnuts slings nine or ten insults towards a person who did NONE! How many times has the freak said he calls people names ONLY if they do to him first? What we have here is a clear case of typical leftist hypocrisy. It is so obvious to normal people yet so many from the Left such as kabnuts refuse to accept facts. They would rather continue to assert their lies on top of lies.

          Note to kabnuts: you'll never understand. Hypocrisy is a word you'll never ever understand. I'd be funny if kabnuts was a normal human being but since he is mentally disabled we should not make fun of him. However, mutant freaks like him should stay away from posting any messages here. It's way above his pay-grade.

          I can hardly wait to read his reply to this post. Anyone wanna make a bet he'll at least double the insults for little ole me?

          Makes ya kinda proud to be associated with him, doesn't it? After all, how many mutant freaks do you personally know about?

          Keep posting kab - each and every one of your insult filled messages are priceless. Very intelligent postings indeed. I'm sure your parents, if they have any courage at all, are very proud of your repetitive ramblings on these here MMfA message boards.

          Atta boy!

          Report Abuse
      • Author by n'est-ce pas (February 06, 2012 12:36 pm ET)
        Get help. Sometimes a number is just a number, and this particular number has been counted this particular way for nearly 100 years.
        Report Abuse
      • Author by jonimacaroni1 (February 06, 2012 12:49 pm ET)
        There's always been the reported unemployment number and the "real" unemployed people raw number that is larger.

        It's not like the Obama administration invented this disparity, and so your assertion that the Obama administration is trying to do something dishonest by utilizing the same number that all previous adminstrations have used is some really weak tea, "altsoba" and you know it.

        It's not a lie to look at a subset of a larger number when anyone who knows what they're talking about already knows it's a subset of a larger number!
        Report Abuse
        • Author by altsoba (February 06, 2012 3:03 pm ET)
          I never claimed that the real unemployment number was diffrent under past presidents. My claim is that I believe that Obama would do whatever is needed to get him reelected and he is trying to cushion the unemployment numbers as much as he can. Remember he said give me what I want and unemployment will not go above 8%. Yea right.

          Obama is incompetent and does not deserve another term. The problem is that if Rommeny or Gingrich win the republican nomination neither one of them are competent to lead either so again we are left with choosing the lesser of the evils. Let's hope Ron Paul is at least one of the choices we have for president.
          Report Abuse
          • Author by Johaely (February 06, 2012 3:36 pm ET)
            Remember he said give me what I want and unemployment will not go above 8%.


            Let's hope Ron Paul is at least one of the choices we have for president.

            I hope not. The man doesn't really know how to govern a country.
            Report Abuse
          • Author by jonimacaroni1 (February 06, 2012 4:31 pm ET)
            But he's not "cushioning" the numbers. Seasonally-adjusting numbers has happened for generations. It's the right thing to do for many reasons.

            And having the Unemployment numbers that are regularly cited, numbers that leave out some who aren't working but might be under differing circumstances, makes sense too. Its not done to hide anything or disguise the 'real' numbers.

            And Obama never, ever, ever said that unemployment wouldn't go over 8%. No one associated with him said that either. What they DID say was that if the preliminary numbers they were using from late 2008 remained accurate, they predicted that with their stimulus package, unemployment wouldn't go over 8%. But it turns out that the preliminary guesstimates about the economy in the last quarter of 2008 were grossly underestimated the collapse that had happened. We didn't fully recognize how bad it was until this past summer when they further documented the collapse! Complaining that a prediction based upon shaky numbers didn't come true is disingenuous. Of course, it's what Mitt Romney did in his speech after he won Nevada on Saturday.

            If I say that it normally takes 3 hours to get to the nearest huge metropolis from my home, and then we have a natural catastrophe that destroys a portion of the roadway and it now takes 5 hours to get there, was my comment wrong? Nope, it wasn't. If all things had remained the same, it would still take 3 hours to get there on an average travel day.
            Report Abuse
    • Author by armendale (February 06, 2012 12:30 pm ET)
      Meanwhile, the GOP's Wall Street buddies apparently believe Obama's lower unemployment 8.3 number is accurate.
      See the Dow Jones jump when that number came out?

      Report Abuse
    • Author by draftedin68 (February 06, 2012 1:22 pm ET)

      Okay, I'm confused...

      Apparently, there hasn't yet been a high-level conference call amongst Roger Ailes and the other righty mucky-mucks to settle on a national narrative.

      For three years, we've heard "The economy's crashing and it's all Obama's fault!" and now we're hearing "The economy's getting better and you can thank we conservatives."

      Which is it, guys?
      Report Abuse
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