After being harshly criticized for questioning the veracity of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest jobs report, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch on Tuesday evening responded to his detractors in a lengthy and unapologetic op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.
“Imagine a country where challenging the ruling authorities — questioning, say, a piece of data released by central headquarters — would result in mobs of administration sympathizers claiming you should feel ’embarrassed’ and labeling you a fool, or worse,” writes Welch.
“Soviet Russia perhaps? Communist China? Nope, that would be the United States right now, when a person (like me, for instance) suggests that a certain government datum (like the September unemployment rate of 7.8%) doesn’t make sense,” he adds.
Welch goes on to reiterate his point, that is, that recent BLS data is not just faulty, but “implausible.”
“Unfortunately for those who would like me to pipe down, 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,” he writes.
The former CEO continues, reminding readers that a) he is not working for the Romney campaign and b) BLS data is hardly free of error.
“The unemployment data reported each month are gathered over a one-week period by census workers, by phone in 70% of the cases, and the rest through home visits. In sum, they try to contact 60,000 households, asking a list of questions and recording the responses,” he writes, adding that the BLS even has an entire page in its “Handbook of Methods” dedicated to explaining the limitation of its data.
“Bottom line: To suggest that the input to the BLS data-collection system is precise and bias-free is — well, let’s just say, overstated,” he adds.
Later on, Welch directly addresses the tweet that got everyone in a twist:
Now, I realize my tweets about this matter have been somewhat incendiary. In my first tweet, sent the night before the unemployment figure was released, I wrote: “Tomorrow unemployment numbers for Sept. with all the assumptions Labor Department can make..wonder about participation assumption??” The response was a big yawn.
My next tweet, on Oct. 5, the one that got the attention of the Obama campaign and its supporters, read: “Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers.”
And here’s the controversial Oct. 5 tweet:
Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers
— Jack Welch (@jack_welch) October 5, 2012
As he did when attacked by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Welch maintains that he was simply trying to raise a question, adding that, were he to do it all over again, he would definitely add question marks at the end of the Oct. 5 message.
“But I’m not sorry for the heated debate that ensued. I’m not the first person to question government numbers, and hopefully I won’t be the last,” Welch writes.
“The coming election is too important to be decided on a number. Especially when that number seems so wrong.”
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Front page photo courtesy the AP.