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Jack Welch: Unemployment rate cooked

12:36 PM, Oct 5, 2012   |    comments
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The big drop in the unemployment rate a month before the presidential election brought cries of disbelief and conspiracy theories from Jack Welch and other critics of the Obama administration Friday. But the Labor Department was quick to dismiss such claims.

"Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers," tweeted Welch, the former CEO of General Electric (GE, Fortune 500). Welch did not respond to a request for further comment on his tweet.

The unemployment rate fell to 7.8% in September, down from 8.1% a month earlier. The drop was due to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' survey of households showing that 873,000 more people had jobs than in the previous month. That was the biggest one-month gain in more than nine years.

Welch wasn't alone in raising questions about the jobs numbers. Americans for Limited Government, a conservative group that has been a steady critic of the Obama administration, issued a statement that said the numbers the BLS "used to calculate the unemployment rate are wrong, or worse manipulated. Given that these numbers conveniently meet Obama's campaign promises one month before the election, the conclusions are obvious...Anyone who takes this unemployment report serious is either naive or a paid Obama campaign adviser."

Conn Carroll, a senior writer at the conservative Washington Examiner suggested a slightly less nefarious form of manipulation of the data.

"I don't think BLS cooked numbers. I think a bunch of Dems lied about getting jobs. That would have same effect," he tweeted. "Would love to see the partisan breakdown of the 873,000 Americans who say they got new jobs."

BLS denied there was any manipulation of the data or anything out of the ordinary about the unemployment rate calculation.

"No political appointee is involved in the collecting, processing and analyzing of the data," said Thomas Nardone, the associate commissioner for employment and unemployment statistics. He said the Council of Economic Advisers doesn't get the numbers until Thursday afternoon, and that the Secretary of Labor herself doesn't see them until Friday morning.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis criticized the conspiracy theories as well Friday.

"This is a methodology that's been used for decades. And it is insulting when you hear people just cavalierly say that somehow we're manipulating numbers," Solis told CNN's Richard Quest.

Even some conservative economists defended the BLS's integrity and legitimacy of the numbers.

"The jobs #'s may look fishy to some, but if you step back, it's just a plow horse economy lumbering along," tweeted Brian Wesbury, chief economist at First Trust.

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