By Peter Schroeder - 11/19/13 10:48 AM EST
The House Oversight Committee is vowing to thoroughly investigate a report that unemployment data was falsified before the 2012 presidential election.
The New York Post reported Monday evening that a Census Bureau employee had been found fabricating unemployment survey data that helped determine the nation’s jobless rate.
“The allegation that data gathered by the Census Bureau is being manipulated for any reason is extremely serious. The Oversight Committee has jurisdiction over the Census Bureau and will be thoroughly investigating these claims,” he said in a statement.
Farenthold chairs the Oversight subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Census Bureau.
In a statement, a Census Bureau spokesperson said the agency takes any fraud allegations “very seriously,” but added that there was no evidence of a broad effort to skew the unemployment data.
“We have no reason to believe that there was a systematic manipulation of the data described in media reports,” the spokesperson said, who added that when the allegations emerged, they were immediately reported to the bureau’s inspector general.
Asked about the story Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney called it “obviously misleading,” and noted that the Obama administration suffered several disappointing jobs reports during the president's first term.
“A lot of people shed a lot of credibility engaging in conspiracy theories last fall about, you know, rigged jobs numbers,” Carney said.
The unemployment rate, calculated by the Labor Department, is based on survey data of 60,000 households, conducted by the bureau.
The Post report claimed that a census employee fabricated data for survey respondents he could not contact. The employee, Julius Buckmon, told the publication he was told to do so by superiors, and the report claims there were multiple employees doing the same. It also indicates that the problem dated back to as early as 2010, and not just the months before the president’s reelection.
Buckmon said he was not told how to answer questions for non-respondents, including whether they were employed, unemployed, or looking for work, and it was not clear from the initial report whether any fabrication contributed to a lower unemployment rate.
The claim comes after some accused the government of fudging unemployment numbers in the months before the election. Former General Electric Chairman Jack Welch was thrust into the spotlight when he cast doubt on a surprising report one month before the election that found the unemployment rate dipped from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent.
“Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers,” he tweeted.
Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), who went on to lose his reelection bid, also charged the Obama administration was manipulating the data.
However, the unemployment rate in Pennsylvania, where the alleged fabrication occurred, was actually reported to be higher than the national rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in Pennsylvania was 8.1 percent in September 2012, its highest level of the year. Several economists from both sides of the aisle defended the numbers and methodology in which they were gathered.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who left the agency in 2013, said she was “insulted” by the claims when they occurred.
--This report was updated at 3:35 p.m.