Did Cooked Unemployment Figures Help Obama Win Re-election?

A former Census employee is alleging the numbers were manipulated before the November 2012 election.

Posted: 11/25/2013 02:53 PM EST

Weeks before the 2012 election, the national unemployment rate dipped from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent. Political observers say the lower figure was a key factor in President Obama's glide to victory. But according to a recent report from the New York Post, the data was manipulated in an ongoing practice that began in 2010.

Former Census Bureau employee Julius Buckmon — who worked in the Philadelphia region and was previously caught falsifying the numbers used to create unemployment reports — told the Post that he was instructed to "make up information by higher-ups" at the agency. Another so-called "reliable source" told the publication that Buckmon's "not the only one."

Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, told BET.com that even if the books were being cooked, it would not be enough to impact the national unemployment rate.

"Because the Bureau of Labor Statistics is under so much scrutiny, it would have huge safeguards in place to flag anything that looks suspicious," she said. "That would be standard procedure for a place like the BLS. And one person's [manipulation] wouldn't be big enough to move the overall unemployment rate."

The Republican-led House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wants answers, although a spokeswoman for the Census Bureau denied any systematic manipulation of data.

"These allegations are shocking," committee chairman Darrell Issa wrote in a letter, signed by two other lawmakers, sent to Census Bureau director John Thompson. "We need to better understand whether the Current Population Survey and other important Census Bureau data are reliable, and if not, whether Census Bureau officials knowingly and intentionally fabricated the data on which they are based."

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(Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

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