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Is the Government Cooking the Books on Jobs Numbers?

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Are you ready for this question? Is the government cooking the books? New questions tonight about the reliability of the nation’s jobless numbers and unemployment rate. Is the government manipulating the numbers? And could that add up to more economic troubles?

Fox Business Network’s Liz MacDonald joins us. Liz, is the government cooking the books on some of the numbers we see?

ELIZABETH MACDONALD, FOX BUSINESS: You know, we are seeing some weird things coming up in the jobs numbers, Greta. And you know, we’re taking a dispassionate, kind of clinical look at the jobs numbers and we’re seeing some kind of oddities that even Wall Street shops from both sides of the aisle are finding, as well.

Take the first-time jobless claims — in other words, people who are filing for unemployment for the first time. For 59 of the last 60 weeks, those numbers have been revised higher after the fact. So what that means is, is when you have the present week’s number and you compare it to the prior week’s number, it looks great because that prior week’s number was revised higher.

And the other thing we’re finding, too, is that the unemployment rate — again, this has been an issue that’s come under both Democrat and Republican presidents — the unemployment rate, it doesn’t count the people who have dropped out. It only counts the people who have been actively looking for work.

So when you factor in the dropouts, that comes in at about 10.9 percent if you factor in that the labor force participation rate, meaning the number of people who are working in the labor force, would have stayed the same when the recession began in 2009.

So you know, the question is, when you see an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent, you may say to yourself, Hey, the president’s stimulus plan is working, but when you do a deep dive into the numbers and see what the actual rate is, it doesn’t look so great.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, since the unemployment rate is squishy, for lack of a better term, because it doesn’t include those people who have simply given up — if you included those, is there some — has anyone done any, you know, good, reliable analysis about what would — what I refer to as the real unemployment rate, people who don’t have jobs and who want them, even those who have sort of — are in despair?

MACDONALD: Yes. You know, and again, it would come in at 10.9 percent. And then there’s an even broader new number that people are very worried about, Greta. And that is the number of people in the labor force is about the same as it was — get this — in 1969. It was the same as it was in — the rate is the same as it was in 1979. It’s been the same as it was in 1982.

And that is worrisome on two fronts. You want more people working because if there’s more people working, it means more Social Security tax revenues to basically pay for Social Security. And also, it means that we have more people working, it helps fund future unemployment benefits. In other words, when have you less people working, it means more government handouts.

So it is a concern, and this is a trend that’s been growing under both presidents, on both sides of the political aisle.

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