GOP lawmaker wants new employment measure after disputed jobs report

A House Republican is using rumblings of foul play on Friday's surprisingly positive jobs report to push a bill he says would more accurately capture the state of the nation's employment.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) did not directly suggest that the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which showed unemployment dipping below 8 percent one month before the presidential election, is proof of political tinkering. Rather, he contended the controversy over the report "raises interest" in how the nation's unemployment rate is calculated, and suggested his approach might be more accurate.

"The latest unemployment report raises interest in both the method for calculation, the accuracy of the process for determining unemployment and the correlation to coinciding data," he wrote in a letter to House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.).

"It is my recommendation that the committee begin evaluating the methods and factors that are currently used to calculate monthly unemployment in order to determine whether existing practices produce the most accurate and reliable information or if there are ways to improve the process for calculation and reporting," he added.

Suggestions that the White House deliberately lowered the unemployment rate ahead of the election have been widely rejected by economic and labor experts in both parties as a logistical impossibility. The jobs report is compiled by career officials at the BLS, not political appointees.

But Hunter said the current measure "carelessly disregards" a key group of the unemployed — those who have given up looking for work.

The BLS currently determines the unemployment rate by basing it on a household survey of those who are unemployed in relation to the overall labor force. However, that number, which now stands at 7.8 percent, does not include unemployed people who would like to work but have given up.

Hunter is pushing legislation that would require the BLS to publish an alternative employment measurement as the "official" unemployment rate, which would in turn dominate headlines. This measurement, which would include people not looking for work that would like a job, is substantially higher, at 9.3 percent.

In his letter, Hunter said his bill is not aimed at making things more difficult for President Obama, but rather to "acquire a more accurate and reliable reading of the national unemployment situation."

Hunter's push comes after some Republicans suggested that Friday's report might have been influenced by the White House.

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) outright accused the White House of cooking the books, calling it "Orwellian to say the least" on Facebook. Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch became the face of that skepticism, posting on Twitter shortly after the report was released Friday morning that the numbers were "unbelievable."

"These Chicago guys will do anything, can't debate so change numbers," he wrote.

White House officials dismissed the claims as "ludicrous" and "insulting."