Oct. 10, 2012 at 12:14 PM ET
Jack Welch has fired back over his widely-criticized tweet on the latest jobs report, writing in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal Wednesday that the reported 7.8 percent U.S. unemployment rate is “downright implausible.”
The September jobs report, released Friday morning, showed the nation’s unemployment rate slid below 8 percent for the first time since President Barack Obama was inaugurated in January 2009.
The former chief executive of General Electric created a stir by taking to his Twitter account to suggest the Obama administration had manipulated the numbers to boost the president’s re-election chances. Welch’s tweet read:
“Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers.”
The tweet garnered widespread criticism from economists and the financial media, some of whom said Welch’s comments were simply wrong.
But in his op-ed Wednesday Welch responded to “those who would like me to pipe down,” saying “the 7.8% unemployment figure released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) last week is downright implausible. And that's why I made a stink about it.”
Welch said it’s an overstatement to suggest that data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are “precise” and “bias-free,” and he specifically raised questions over three key statistics: The labor-force participation rate, the growth in government workers and overall job growth.
These data points, “all multidecade records achieved over the past two months” have to “raise some eyebrows,” he said.
“There were no economists, liberal or conservative, predicting that unemployment in September would drop below 8%,” Welch added.
“I know I'm not the only person hearing these numbers and saying, 'Really?,'” he said. “If all that's true, why are so many people I know still having such a hard time finding work? Why do I keep hearing about local, state and federal cutbacks?"
Welch went on to write that the Obama campaign and its supporters “would like you to believe that BLS data are handled like the gold in Fort Knox, with gun-carrying guards watching their every move, and highly trained, white-gloved super-agents counting and recounting hourly.”
The reality is the process of collecting monthly unemployment data are far less scientific, he added, noting that they are gathered over a one-week period by census workers, by phone in 70 percent of the cases, and the rest through home visits. The possibility of subjectivity creeping into the process is pervasive, he said.
Welch said Tuesday he would not continue to write for Fortune magazine after the magazine was critical of his comments on the jobs report last Friday.
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