Get ready for lies and Labor Department statistics
By John Crudele
December 2, 2013 | 9:57pm
The Labor Department will release its latest unemployment data this Friday.
But it won’t put a note in the news release saying that its jobless figures might have been fabricated.
So I’ll write the note for the department, which is, understandably, shy about the whole matter.
Warning: The unemployment numbers you see in this press release may have been fabricated. In fact, the jobless rate that seems so important to the Federal Reserve, economists, businesses and so many others might have been a joke for years. Use these numbers at your own risk.
You might want to keep this note handy when the Labor Department announces the new jobless rate for November, which “experts” expect to fall to 7.2 percent from October’s 7.3 percent rate.
The Fed seems to be aiming for a rate in the mid-6 percent range before it starts cutting back on its bond-buying disaster in the making known as quantitative easing.
Basing any decision on the unemployment rate was ludicrous even before I broke the news a couple of weeks ago that someone had been caught fabricating the interviews with households.
The rate has always been subject to statistical manipulation. If someone stops looking for work, for instance, he’s no longer unemployed in the eyes of the Labor Department.
On the flip side, the jobless rate would go up if the economy improved as people suddenly would become more optimistic and start looking for a job after having given up.
What I uncovered a few weeks ago is quite another thing: the outright falsification of the unemployment data, which is not only indefensible but also unimaginable.
To refresh your mind, I learned that a guy named Julius Buckmon, who worked as a Census Bureau surveyor in Washington, had been caught in 2011 handing in fabricated interviews. And not just a couple.
Buckmon was a workaholic, producing four times as many interviews each month as his peers. That was not hard, since Buckmon didn’t bother to actually interview most of the people.
Buckmon, who has left Census, said that he was told to make up interviews by a supervisor. That supervisor’s actions were then covered up by another supervisor.
The Census Bureau didn’t bother to tell the Labor Department about any of this. Labor learned about it from my column and the convulsion that followed.
Both Census supervisors are still on the job, although a source tells me that Supervisor No. 1 — the one Buckmon directly blamed — has been barred from doing work for the Labor Department.
There’s no telling how many survey-takers like Buckmon were taking orders from these supervisors, so there is no way of knowing how much of the data were corrupted. Buckmon told me that he never came into contact with any other survey-takers, so he didn’t know if others were also faking it.
A whistle-blower who spoke to me and who is now presumably talking with congressional investigators says the deceit continued after Buckmon was gone. And, this source says, survey-takers and supervisors knew that higher-ups wanted the jobless rate to come down before the 2012 election.
And that’s exactly what the rate did, showing an astounding drop just two months before President Obama was put back into office.
I published my first column about Buckmon and the other accusations on Nov. 19. The Census Bureau would have been finishing up its November employment survey around that time — so these folks wouldn’t have been on their best behavior when producing the numbers coming out on Friday.
As far as I’m concerned, anything coming from the BLS is legit, although I have questioned some of the group’s statistical tricks over the years.
But anything coming directly from the Labor Department or Census — don’t trust it! Both are headed by political appointees.
If you haven’t seen it already, catch an online piece written on Nov. 12 by Judge Jed Rakoff, who presides over many of the Wall Street trials in Manhattan.
The headline is “Why Have No High Level Executives Been Prosecuted in Connection With the Financial Crisis?”
I’ve asked that question plenty, both in this column and, occasionally, while wandering aimlessly around the streets of New York.
“In conclusion, I want to stress again that I have no idea whether the financial crisis that is still causing so many of us so much pain and despondency was the product, in whole or in part, of fraudulent misconduct,” wrote Rakoff.
“But if it was — as various government authorities have asserted it was — then, the failure of the government to bring to justice those responsible for such colossal fraud bespeaks weaknesses in our prosecutorial system that need to be addressed,” added Rakoff.
With my apologies to the judge, let me explain this better: The fraud that caused our nation’s worst financial crisis in generations was caused by Wall Street firms, which — along with the people who run them — contribute heavily to political campaigns.
So if you ever had a doubt that rich people are treated better than others in the American legal system, you shouldn’t doubt any more.
But thanks, Judge Rakoff.