03.02.17

Murray, Ranking Members of Key Committees Call On President Trump to Maintain Integrity, Independence of Bureau of Labor Statistics

President Trump and senior Administration officials have expressed skepticism of unemployment statistics in the past

 

Bureau of Labor Statistics provides independent, unbiased data on key economic indicators

 

In new letter, Ranking Members of eight key Senate committees urge President Trump to commit to providing objective data on unemployment rates  

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and ranking members from seven other key committees sent a letter today to President Trump calling on him to commit to maintaining an independent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  

 

“We find it necessary to seek this commitment because you and representatives of your Administration have expressed a clear skepticism and distrust of, amount other statistics, the monthly unemployment rate and unemployment reports,” wrote the Senators. “When you and your Administration fail to provide measureable, objective data substantiating unemployment rates, you whittle away at the public’s understanding of our nation’s economy.”

 

The BLS provides unbiased, critical data that helps guide the development of laws and policies, and provides decision-makers with a more comprehensive view of our economy. President Trump and officials in his Administration have made comments questioning the legitimacy of data put out by the BLS.

 

Along with Senator Patty Murray, the letter was signed by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), ranking member of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), ranking member of the Committee on Finance, Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), ranking member of the Joint Economic Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), ranking member of the Committee on Appropriations, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), ranking member of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), ranking member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), ranking member of the Special Committee on Aging.

 

Full letter below and a PDF can be found HERE.

 

 

March 2, 2017

 

 

The President

The White House

Washington, DC  20500

 

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

We write today in support of and to expand on the concerns raised in a February 2nd letter from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce related to the independence and integrity of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  Like our House colleagues, we seek a commitment from you, your staff, and your eventual Secretary of Labor and Commissioner of the Bureau to support and stand by the essential, independent work of the BLS. 

 

We find it necessary to seek this commitment because you and representatives of your Administration have expressed a clear skepticism and distrust of, among other statistics, the monthly unemployment rate and employment reports.  For example, the White House press secretary reportedly refused to cite the official unemployment rate when directly asked to do so by a reporter.[1]  During your campaign, you stated the unemployment rate was “one of the biggest hoaxes in American modern politics.”[2]  Last February, you also stated, incorrectly, that the unemployment rate is “probably 28, 29, as high as 35.  In fact, I even heard recently 42%.”[3]  Only a few days earlier, the BLS had reported that the unemployment rate was 4.9%.  The most comprehensive measure of unemployment and underemployment, the U-6 rate, was 9.9%. 

 

BLS data are critical to the development of laws, policies, and businesses that affect Americans, and also to the interpretation of our country’s economic health and security.  In addition to its monthly studies on employment and payroll, the BLS publishes five other measures of unemployment and under-employment.  Those reports include individuals who are working part-time but want to work full-time, and those who want to work but believe a job search would be useless because of a perceived lack of available jobs.  Collectively, these measures provide decision-makers with a more comprehensive view of our labor market.

 

For over a century, the BLS has produced these neutral and unbiased reports on our country’s labor market and unemployment rate.  One of those reports has been the monthly employment situation report.[4] Presidents, politicians of all parties, businesses, and all Americans have used this information to make decisions affecting our economy.  

 

When you and your Administration fail to provide measurable, objective data substantiating unemployment rates, you whittle away at the public’s understanding of our nation’s economy.  As your Administration works to develop economic policy, we urge you to refrain from discrediting or undermining the BLS.   We ask that you commit to supporting and standing by the independence and integrity of BLS and its work for the good of employers, employees, and our nation’s economy. 

 

###



[1] Allan Smith, “Sean Spicer Won't Say What the Unemployment Rate Is,” Business Insider, (January 23, 2017), available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/sean-spicer-unemployment-rate-2017-1

[2] Julia Horowitz, "Will Trump team try to undermine official unemployment numbers?'' CNN Money, (January 25. 2017), available at: http://money.cnn.com/2017/01/24/news/economy/trump-administration-unemployment-bls/index.html

[3] Lori Robertson, “Fact Check: Trump Wildly Inflates Unemployment,” USA Today, (February 10, 20 16), available at:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/02/10/fact-check-trump-wildly-inflates-unemployment/80202318/

[4] Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Timeline," (Last Modi lied Date: July 5, 20 12), available at: https://www.bls.gov/bls/history/timeline.htm