Beltway Confidential

Obama’s Labor nominee: Official unemployment numbers ‘understate’ jobs crisis

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Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke

Thomas Perez, President Obama’s nominee to lead the Labor Department, told Congress today that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is “understat[ing]” the national unemployment rate.

“The labor force participation is at one of the lowest levels,” Perez told Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., during his confirmation hearing today, adding that “7.6 percent doesn’t take into account discouraged workers, so, in that sense, it understates the unemployment rate.”

Perez made that comment after Sanders said that the true unemployment rate is 13.6 percent. The senator asked Perez to help shift the Bureau of Labor Statistics towards emphasizing the higher figures.

“I look forward to working with you and everyone on the committee to tell the story of what’s happening and to work collaboratively to identify solutions,” Perez said.

The story Sanders wants told isn’t one the Obama administration tends to recite. “While more work remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression,” Alan Krueger, the top White House economist, wrote of the March jobs numbers.

“The household survey showed that the unemployment rate fell from 7.7 percent in February to 7.6 percent in March, the lowest since December 2008. The labor force participation rate decreased by 0.2 percentage point to 63.3 percent in March,” he added, without comment.

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