Politics - News Analysis

Agency Head Responsible For Massive Jobs Numbers Screwup is Holdover From Trump and Has Done This Before

Ever wonder why numbers so frequently get "revised" in jobs reports? It can be political.

The news that the most recent jobs report, dismal no matter how you sliced it, was off by the biggest margin in American history took a lot of us by surprise yesterday.

What doesn’t surprise me is why it happened.

We keep hearing on the news — well after the fact — that the Trump administration and often the former president himself were involved in some kind of coverup that we didn’t know about at the time.

Statistics for COVID-related illnesses, for example, were just proven to have been fudged when emails came out from a House committee showing the extent to which Trump and his political appointees inside Health and Human Services had improperly influenced reports that came out during the pandemic.

All of that happened because Trump wanted numbers to look a certain way.

Now we’re finding out, via the Washington Post, that a Trump holdover did the same thing for the jobs reporting for 2021. The paper said that the Bureau of Labor Statistics, headed by William Beach, had grossly underestimated job gains, a number that was only discovered after revisions to the report had been made:

In the most recent four months with revisions, June through September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported it underestimated job growth by a cumulative 626,000 jobs — that’s the largest underestimate of any other comparable period, going back to 1979. If those revisions were themselves a jobs report, they’d be an absolute blockbuster.

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So this whole time that you’ve been listening to Republicans talk about how bad the labor market is under Joe Biden, they were doing so based on numbers that weren’t just incorrect — they were the most incorrect they’ve ever been.

So who is William Beach? Well, he’s a Trump appointee who used to work for the right-wing Heritage Foundation, the Koch brothers, and even worked for GOP Senators on the Budget Committee.

Gosh, I wonder why he’d want things to look bad for President Biden.

Frustratingly, we should have known it was coming. The Post also pointed out that, under Beach, jobs reports during the Trump administration were also wildly inaccurate — but in the other direction:

Revisions in the already calamitous months of March and April 2020 found the economy had lost 922,000 more jobs than initially reported.

So the game is to make things look better for the president when he’s in your party and make things look worse when the opposition is in power.

Unfortunately, much of our economic decisions, from large corporations all the way down to mom-and-pop stores down the road, depend on accurate numbers from BLS.

If we wanted partisans in charge of facts and figures, we’d just watch Fox News.

Andrew Simpson
meet the author

Andrew is a dark blue speck in deep red Southwestern Arizona, writing with the conviction of 17 years at the keyboard and too much politics to even stand. When not furiously stabbing the keys on breaking news stories, he writes poetry, prose, essays, haiku, lectures, stories for grief therapy, wedding ceremonies, detailed instructions on making doughnuts from canned biscuit dough (more sugar than cinnamon — duh), and equations to determine the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. A wife, three kids, and a grandson round out the story, and in his spare time, Andrew loves to think about how nice it would be to have spare time.

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