Ben Mannes: Contradiction in federal job numbers further erodes trust in government

Crime, jobs, and the border: These are the three biggest issues facing American voters as the 2024 Presidential election looms. Meanwhile, the Biden administration and mainstream media have been steadily reporting drops in crime, surging employment, and bold immigration policies aimed at “closing the border”. If you are having trouble accepting these reports, then you’re not alone…because these reports may not be valid.

Last week, the monthly jobs report from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics was covered positively by the media, saying the economy added far more jobs than expected in May with nonfarm payrolls increasing by 272,000 for the month, up from 165,000 in April. The same report also reported an increase in wage growth, increasing 0.4 percent for the month. Average hourly earnings are up 4.1 percent over the past year, outpacing the recent rate of inflation.

This should be a positive sign that the recessionary cycle of inflation is nearing an end. However, conflicting government reports raise serious questions as to the validity of the rosy picture being painted by the White House, which many Americans are taking with a grain of salt.

Just like the contradicting crime reporting methods reported by Broad + Liberty last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report is made up of two surveys: the Establishment survey (bosses) and the Household survey (workers). Since their inception, these two surveys mirrored each other in trajectory, but the latest report shows the two contradicting each other, with the economy echoing these contradictions. The establishment (employer) report claimed that +272,000 jobs were created last month, the majority of which were from part-time jobs. Meanwhile, the household survey reported they lost 625,000 full-time jobs last month and picked up +287,000 part-time jobs.

The media mainly reported the establishment survey number, failing to cover questions about what these jobs are, who are taking them, and if there are truly more Americans at work. These questions are exacerbated by separate, state-generated reports showing the nation’s unemployment rate rose to four percent for the first time since January 2022.

In a piece for Bloomberg, Jonathan Levin wrote that labor market data is full of conflicting signals stemming from “the hodgepodge of data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) last Friday”. The establishment survey shows employers adding the 272,000 jobs last month, which exceeded all 77 forecasts compiled by Bloomberg. Furthermore, BLS reported average hourly earnings up 0.4 percent from the previous month.

However, the other half of the BLS report is the establishment survey, in which the Labor Department asks a sample of households about inhabitants’ work status. That survey showed that the unemployment rate rose to 4 percent, from 3.9 percent, and employment, according to a measure adjusted to conceptually match payrolls, actually fell by 456,000.

Two government surveys tell different stories about the labor market which when digging into the details illustrates a particularly bleak picture in where less Americans are working, with many taking a second job to make ends meet with a brutal inflation rate, and a glut of illegal immigrants flooding the job market. 

The surge of immigration resulting from the Biden administration’s open border policy has complicated the American job market. In past generations, illegal immigrants took “off the book” jobs because of their inability to get identification. Since Biden’s policies took effect, however, migrants have been allowed to enter the nation with unsubstantiated claims of asylum, and allowed into the nation with dates to appear before immigration courts years from now. This, along with “sanctuary cities” like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia, has enabled millions of illegal immigrants to get municipal identification cards and seek employment alongside US citizens. 

In breaking down the +0.4 percent wage increase from the previous month, the hottest pace since January, Levin wrote that the increase came entirely from the seasonal adjustment process. This process attempts to account for seasonal differences in labor market patterns. Unadjusted, average hourly earnings declined from the previous month. “It’s not that the official number is “wrong,” but it should be treated with due caution,” writes Levin.

The questions surrounding Friday’s job numbers further show spin in official reporting regarding the health of the American economy. This comes in the same week that the Biden administration touted a tough new immigration policy, which has since been undermined by a leaked homeland security memo showing the Border Patrol was ordered to release illegal immigrants in direct contradiction to the terms of Biden’s new “policy”.

The validity of official, taxpayer-funded, federal reporting for three of the four biggest issues impacting the upcoming presidential election are now questionable. The economy and immigration contradictions came just one month after following FBI reports that violent crime fell by two percent, while the DOJ’s own national victimization survey from the same period reported a 42 percent increase in violent crime victimization. Federal surveys tracking crime and jobs reports have generally tracked with each other over decades, but curiously in the 2024 election cycle, they don’t anymore.

Worse, when citizens no longer feel they can trust their government and media, they lose trust in the essential institutions of society, like elections, policing, and education. This is why it is imperative for our media and our elected officials, regardless of which side of the aisle they are on, to right the ship and return to an era of objectivity — or face the reality of their role in our societal decline.

Based in Philadelphia, A. Benjamin Mannes is a consultant and subject matter expert in security & criminal justice reform based on his own experiences on both sides of the criminal justice system. He has served as a federal and municipal law enforcement officer and was the former Director, Office of Investigations with the American Board of Internal Medicine. @PublicSafetySME

2 thoughts on “Ben Mannes: Contradiction in federal job numbers further erodes trust in government”

  1. Whenever I hear about a government report on unemployment, i go to the BLS site and look up two numbers: The size of the civilian labor force, and the labor participation rate. Multiply the first number by the second number and you get a more realistic picture of how many americans are actually working, and how many jobs have been “created.”

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