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Unemployment rate tampering? Why conspiracy theorists went wild.

Retired GE CEO Jack Welch saw Friday's jobs report, with its 7.8 percent unemployment rate, as 'unbelievable.' Others on the right piled on, suggesting Obama administration tampering. But the jobs number in question has been known to vary widely month to month.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / October 5, 2012

Then-GE CEO Jack Welch addresses graduating students during Class Day at the Harvard Business School in Boston, in this June 2001 file photo. The unemployment rate dropped to a near four-year low of 7.8 percent in September, which Welch saw as 'unbelievable.'

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters


New York

Just a month before the election, did the White House “cook the books” to get the unemployment rate down to 7.8 percent in September?

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That’s how retired General Electric chairman Jack Welch sees it.

“Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers,” said the missive from his Twitter account after the latest jobs report came out Friday from the Labor Department.

Mr. Welch’s tweet has set off a firestorm of activity in the virtual realm. Conspiracy theorists jumped on board as if the Obama administration had hidden reports of UFOs landing in the Rose Garden.

“Jobs #s from Labor Secretary Hilda Solis are total pro-Obama propaganda—labor force participation rate at 30-yr low. Abysmal!” wrote conservative radio host Laura Ingraham in a tweet.

And Rep. Allen West (R) of Florida, a favorite of the tea party, tweeted, “I agree with former GE CEO Jack Welch, Chicago style politics is at work here….”

Democrats quickly tweeted right back.

“love ya jack but you’ve lost your mind,” wrote Austan Goolsbee on Twitter.

Welch is best known for making GE into a corporate dynamo. When he retired, he also became known for collecting a pension that many thought was excessive. In addition to collecting $933 million, he got an annual pension of $10.5 million and a chauffeur and use of the GE corporate jet for life. As if that were not enough, GE also agreed to pay his dry cleaning bills.  

In Welch’s case, Labor Secretary Solis appeared on CNBC to refute allegations that any massaging of the data had occurred.

“You know I am insulted when I hear that because we have a very professional civil service organization where you have top economists working" at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), she said. “It is really ludicrous to hear that kind of statement.”


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