GOP Rep. West: Someone's 'playing around with' unemployment numbers

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) is suspicious about the newly released January unemployment numbers.

In response to news that the overall unemployment rate had dropped to 8.3 percent and the unemployment rate in the black community declined from 15.8 percent to 13.6 percent, West floated the possibility that the numbers might have been cooked.

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"Can someone tell me how employment in the black community has improved at a rate three times the national average in just a few months?? With numbers like today, urban communities should be well on their way to economic recovery then! There is something suspicious about the job numbers released today and it has me very concerned," West wondered Friday. "Is this dramatic supposed decrease in black unemployment a result of job creation or is someone playing around with the census numbers??"

Economists reached by The Hill for comment couldn't fully explain the unemployment rate change for the black community. William Darity, a professor of public policy at Duke University specializing in African-American studies and economics, wrote in an email to The Hill that the decline could have been due to a smaller labor force. He called the drop an "unbelievably dramatic drop" but didn't rule out the possibility of someone tampering with the numbers; he said there was no evidence one way or the other.

"If a large proportion of the persons exiting from the labor force were black (and the exists [sic] presumably were due to people giving up on looking for work) that could drop the black [unemployment] rate without any significant new employment," Darity wrote. "But a one month drop in the black unemployment rate from 15.8% to 13.6% strikes me as somewhat unprecedented."

President Obama hailed the January unemployment news as a sign that the economy is growing stronger.