David Jackson, USA TODAY
Some of President Obama's critics don't believe the new jobs report -- and think the president and his team are juicing the numbers.
Shortly after the Labor Department today reported 114,000 new jobs in September -- and a sharp drop in the unemployment rate, to 7.8% -- former General Electric CEO Jack Welch tweeted:
"@jack_welch Unbelievable jobs numbers ... these Chicago guys will do anything ... can't debate so change numbers."
A variety of other conservatives are also questioning the provenance of the new jobs numbers.
Their conspiracy theory drew intense skepticism, including Republicans who back GOP challenger Mitt Romney.
Tony Fratto, a former spokesman for President George W. Bush, tweeted that the Bureau of Labor Statistics "is not manipulating data. Evidence of such would be a scandal of enormous proportions & loss of credibility."
In another tweet, Fratto said: "Stop with the dumb conspiracy theories. Good grief."
Mitt Romney's campaign is staying away from the conspiracy theories. Romney policy director Lanhee Chen told Fox News: "We're going to address the numbers as they've been released."
Whether jobs reports joins other Obama-related conspiracies -- his birth place, his religion -- remains to be seen.
Perhaps we'll have to wait until next month's jobs report.
Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for President Obama, told Bloomberg Television: "No serious person would question the integrity of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These numbers are put together by career employees to use the same process every month.I think those comments are irresponsible."
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis called the accusation an insult, telling CNBC: "I have the highest regard for our professionals that do the calculations ... They are trained economists."
The criticism is unlikely to quiet some voices. Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham tweeted: "Jobs #s from Labor Secretary Hilda Solis are total pro-Obama propaganda -- labor force participation rate at 30-yr low. Abysmal!"
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Welch said he's not kidding about these concerns; he pointed to the BLS household survey that reported 873,000 people re-joining the work force "The economy doesn't feel like it added 873,000 jobs in September," Welch said. "There are a number of things here that are open to discussion."
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is designed to be beyond political influence.
As Ezra Klein of The Washington Post pointed out:
"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."