IG: No evidence jobs data was faked

A new report from the Commerce Department’s inspector general said there was zero evidence that government surveyors falsified unemployment data leading up to the 2012 election.

The independent probe found that the smattering of allegations that jobs data was faked before the election were without merit. The IG said it found “no evidence that management ... instructed staff to falsify data at any time for any reason.”

A handful of claims accusing government officials of tinkering with the jobless rate, which was closely watched in the months leading up to President Obama’s reelection, have emerged in recent months.

A surprising jobs report released one month before the election showed the unemployment rate fall from 8.1 to 7.8 percent. Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch and former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) both accused the administration of faking the data.

And the New York Post reported in November that a Census Bureau employee based in Philadelphia charged with gathering data for the jobs report was told to falsify the information by managers. Both the Census Bureau and the White House immediately dismissed that report as baseless.

House Republicans announced shortly after that story was published that they would be looking into the matter.

The IG specifically looked into the claims surrounding the Philadelphia office, and found no evidence to back it up. While there were claims one employee was told to falsify data, the IG determined that all 78 field workers in that office would have to work together and file false reports on every single jobless person they surveyed to skew the data. Such collaboration would likely have been triggered alarms by Census Bureau quality standards, the report concluded.

However, the IG also determined that the Census Bureau could improve its process for handling employment data. For example, the report noted that the managers responsible for overseeing staff are also responsible for reporting falsified data, and recommended an independent review process be established to avoid a conflict of interest.

In addition, employees under investigation for falsifying data are sometimes permitted to continue working, and training materials were outdated and failed to convey the consequences that come with submitting false reports.

While the report found no evidence of data falsification in the particular instances in question, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said the flaws identified suggested data practices at the Census Bureau are “ripe for abuse.”