Did the Labor Force Drop By 1.2 Million in January?

by Andrew C. McCarthy

I’m not enough of a wonk to understand who is right on this one. As widely reported here and elsewhere, the unemployment rate fell to 8.3% — still unacceptably high, but undeniably a positive trend … if the number is legit.

A number of administration detractors, however, say the books are being cooked. They say if you look closely at the numbers, millions of unemployed are no longer being counted because they’re statistically considered to be no longer in the workforce — no longer looking for employment. Specifically on that score, it is said that the labor participation rate (the number of people employed as against the total population) just fell by by 0.3%, and that just last month, the labor force declined by a staggering 1.2 million people.

At The American Spectator’s blog, the excellent Ross Kaminsky — who is no Obama fan — cautions against making too much of these numbers. Reading the Bureau of Labor Statistics report, he says the decline in the labor force is mostly explained by a once-a-decade statistical adjustment, upward, in the size of the population, based on the 2010 census.

Hopefully, the many Cornerites who follow this stuff closer than I do can shed some light. If the books are being cooked, that’s a big deal and we should be screaming about it. But Mr. Kaminsky is surely right that we should also not be trying to make something out of nothing — if, indeed, it is nothing.