Published October 11, 2012
The chairman of a top oversight committee in Congress suggested he plans hearings on last Friday’s September jobs report, which showed an unexpected sharp drop in the unemployment rate, but his spokesperson said later the committee has not yet decided to hold hearings on the matter.
The decline to 7.8%, from August’s 8.1%, has raised new questions about the accuracy of the Labor Department’s monthly employment report.
“The way it's being done with the constant revisions, significant revision, tells us that it's not as an exact a science as it needs to be and there's got to be a better way to get those numbers, or don't put them out if they're going to be wrong by as much as half a point,” Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in an interview late Wednesday with Greta Van Susteren of Fox News.
On Thursday, a committee spokesperson said the committee has not announced or decided to hold hearings on the September employment report.
But the spokesperson said Issa “believes there are legitimate questions about the Department of Labor's method for calculating unemployment” and that he questions “whether more can be done to ensure that they accurately reflect the state of our nation's job market.”
Asked if he would like a hearing “in the next couple of months on this,” Issa told Van Susteren, “We very much intend to work every day through the November and December time to get these kinds of things done. We're hoping that that's a good non-partisan time. And this is an issue where I think our committee has important jurisdiction to make sure we get it right.”
The Labor Department conducts two jobs surveys each month.
A survey of about 120,000 companies and government workplaces – federal, state and local -- found that employers added 114,000 non-farm payroll jobs in September, just enough to employ new entrants to the job market.
But the second survey of about 60,000 households reported 873,000 people said they had found full or part-time work last month of some kind.
The Department uses the household survey to calculate the unemployment rate, which dropped last month to its lowest level since January of 2009, when President Obama took office -- and the first time it has been below 8% since then.
Several economists speculated the burst of job growth reported by households was a statistical fluke. Among other things, the survey said that an unusually high number of people 20 to 24 years old found work in September. A large portion of those people are college students, who normally would be quitting summer jobs in August to return to classes.
The monthly numbers are also volatile because of the smaller survey size. The people polled include independent contractors, self-employed workers and agriculture workers who are not on company or government payrolls.