Potential presidential candidate Rick Perry dismissed the significant jobs gains under President Obama, telling a conservative group on Friday: “The unemployment rate is a sham.”
The nation’s unemployment rate has fallen to 5.7% in January, from 10% in October 2009, 10 months after Obama took office.
But Perry told the Conservative Political Action Conference that it’s a sham because it “leaves millions of American workers uncounted.”
Other conservatives have attacked the figure too. Most famously Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, accused the Labor Department of deliberately manipulating the figure just before the 2012 presidential vote.
“These Chicago guys will do anything … can’t debate, so change numbers,” tweeted Welch in October 2012, soon after President Obama was widely acknowledged to have lost the first debate to Mitt Romney.
The Labor Department uses the same methods to measure the American workforce as it did during Republican administrations. In the wake of the controversy over Welch’s remarks, officials with the Labor Department denied that the White House or any political appointee has an influence in the way that the unemployment rate is calculated.
While it is true that hiring has grown in the past few years, Perry isn’t completely wrong in pointing out that the unemployment rate doesn’t count all unemployed workers.
The Labor Department stops counting unemployed workers who have stopped looking for work. Some say it makes the unemployment rate look rosier than it actually is.
However, the number might be less skewed now because in recent months the number of discouraged job seekers who have begun looking for work has also gone up as the labor market has improved.