Slatest PM: The Unemployment-Rate-Trutherism Edition

Slatest PM: The Unemployment-Rate-Trutherism Edition

Slatest PM: The Unemployment-Rate-Trutherism Edition

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Oct. 5 2012 5:15 PM

Slatest PM: The Unemployment-Rate-Trutherism Edition


***NOTE: We've revamped our afternoon Slatest newsletter to deliver a text-heavy recap of the day's top stories to our subscribers' inboxes. Friday's edition is below. You can sign up here to receiveThe Slatest PM in your inbox daily before it is published online.***

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.

7.8 PERCENT: That was the nation's unemployment rate last month, according to the latest jobs report released today by the Labor Department. That figure is down three ticks from August's 8.1 percent, and represents the lowest unemployment level since President Obama took office in 2009.


JOBS, NEW AND FOUND: The government data shows that employers added roughly 114,000 jobs last month, largely in line with analysts' predictions. The real surprise came in the form of revisions to July and August's jobs numbers, which together added a combined 86,000 more jobs than previous estimates.

THE GOOD NEWS FOR DEMOCRATS: Slate's Matthew Yglesias: "[O]ver the past two weeks the world has added two great new talking points for Obama. One is that per this month's BLS household survey, the unemployment rate is now back down to where it was in January 2009 before he took office. The other is that between the rebaselining of the first quarter and the upward revisions to July and August it's now clear that more people are at work today than were when Obama was inaugurated—with the net private sector gains even stronger."

THE GOOD NEWS FOR THE ECONOMY: The Washington Post: "Unlike in August, the number improved for the right reason: not because people gave up looking for jobs, but because far more people reported having one."

ANYONE WANT TO DISPUTE THE NUMBERS? Yes, you in the back there, Jack Welch. "Unbelievable jobs numbers ... these Chicago guys will do anything ... can’t debate so change numbers,” the former CEO of General Electric tweeted, quickly finding support in some conservative circles that included at least one GOP congressman.


PUTTING THAT IN PERSPECTIVE: Slate's Dave Weigel: "Let's hope that's a joke, because the idea of an administration doing black magic to Labor statistics in the 24 hours before a report comes out is up there with assuming WTC Building 7 was brought down with controlled demolitions. The Romney campaign, naturally, is smarter and more slippery."

SO, MR. WELCH, WERE YOU JOKING? “I wasn’t kidding,” he told the Wall Street Journal. "I am doing nothing more than raising the question."

A CLOSER LOOK AT THE BLS: The New York Times: "The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is part of the Labor Department but has no political appointees at the moment, computes the numbers from two surveys, one of businesses and one of households. By definition, the data in both surveys are not precise and are subject to regular revisions. Recently, those revisions have showed a strengthening labor market, suggesting that if anything the economy may be improving more than initially reported."

NOT EXACTLY A SURPRISE: The Washington Post: "The fact is that there’s not much that needs to be explained here. We’ve seen drops like this—and even drops bigger than this—before. Between July and August the unemployment rate dropped from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent—two-tenths of 1 percent. November-December of 2011 also saw a 0.2 percent drop. November-December of 2010 saw a 0.4 percent drop. This isn’t some incredible aberration. The fact that the unemployment rate broke under the psychologically important 8 percent line is making this number feel bigger to people than it really is."


IN PRAISE OF THE BLS: Slate's Matthew Yglesias: "The real story about BLS data is how enormously credible it is. Financial markets, the press, opposition politicians, and everyone else almost uniformly takes it seriously. If anything, the national pathology is taking the month-by-month errors a little too seriously and not wrestling with sample error, modeling error, and the relatively large scale of revisions. Conspiracy theorists are rare enough to be newsworthy, and widely dismissed as conspiracy theorists."

LAST WORDS: Romney: “This is not what a real recovery looks like,” he said in a statement. “We created fewer jobs in September than in August, and fewer jobs in August than in July, and we’ve lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs since President Obama took office.” Obama: "Every month reminds us that we've still got too many of our friends and neighbors who are looking for work. ... But today's news certainly is not an excuse to try to talk down the economy to score a few political points. It's a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now."

HAPPY FRIDAY and welcome to The Slatest PM, where your afternoon host is happy to report he's returned to his rightful spot atop Slate's Ken Jennings News Quiz office leader board: 1) Josh Voorhees 444; 2) David Plotz 426; 3) Rachael Larimore 406; 4) Emily Yoffe 397; 5) Seth Stevenson 394; 6) June Thomas 380; 7) Matt Yglesias 379; 8) Dan Kois 369; 9) Allison Benedikt 361; 10) Bryan Lowder 359. Last week's winner couldn't repeat his magic this time: Farhad Manjoo 282. (Revenge is oh-so sweet!)

FOLLOW the entire @slatest team and @JoshVoorhees on Twitter, or bring your host back down to earth by reminding him his job description gives him a teeny, tiny advantage in each week's quiz with an email to


MORE DEBUNKING: No, Mitt Romney didn't use a cheat sheet during Wednesday's debate, no matter what the Internet tries to tell you. Full story here. Also, while we're on the subject, the president's supporters can't blame his debate performance on the altitude either. Mini-explainer here.

"JUST COMPLETELY WRONG": That's what Romney now says about his controversial comments suggesting that 47 percent of the electorate see themselves as "victims." In the immediate wake of the tape's release, you likely remember, the Republican said he meant what he said, even if he should have said it better.

ON A RELATED NOTE: Weigel explains why Republicans suddenly love their candidate—even if he sounds like a moderate governor from Massachusetts.



AP: "A deadly meningitis outbreak rose to 47 cases in seven states Friday, as clinics scrambled to notify patients across the country that the shots they got for back pain may have been contaminated with a fungus."

Reuters: "The British government's imminent move to extradite five prominent Islamic militants to the United States for trial could trigger security and political headaches for President Barack Obama and his administration."

NYT: "Hugo Chávez, a polarizing president who has led Venezuela for nearly 14 years, has many advantages over the opposition candidate trying to unseat him on Sunday, from the airwaves he controls to the government largesse he doles out with abandon. But one especially potent weapon in Mr. Chávez’s arsenal is what might be called the fear factor."

WSJ: "South African gold and platinum producers begin a collective effort next week to resolve strikes over pay that have shut down much of the country's vital mining sector and raised doubts about its economic stability."


Enjoy your weekend. We'll see you back here Monday, but until then, tell your friends to subscribe here, or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.