A New York Post report suggests that Census workers faked data used to calculate the unemployment rate.
The report Monday by John Crudele quotes Julius Buckmon, a Census worker in Philadelphia caught fabricating data in a previously undisclosed case from 2010, as saying higher-ups told him to fill in surveys for people he could not contact to reach the 90-percent success rate required by the Labor Department.
The Census Bureau conducts household surveys that are used to calculate the Labor Department's monthly unemployment rate.
“It was a phone conversation — I forget the exact words — but it was, ‘Go ahead and fabricate it’ to make it what it was,” Buckmon told the Post.
The report quotes a second but unnamed source as saying Buckmon was "not the only one," and that the manipulation of data escalated in the run-up to the 2012 election, though Crudele didn't offer any evidence to bolster allegations that the Labor Department reported lower-than-accurate unemployment rates to help President Obama win re-election.
Still, any concern about the integrity of unemployment data has far-reaching implications. Businesses use that information to make investment and hiring decisions.
People also use it to decide where to look for jobs, and in what industry. And, yes, political candidates use it to win votes.
And observers can be forgiven for lacking trust in an administration that has already tried once to bring the Census under the control of White House political operatives.
The allegations were serious enough to prompt at least one congressional committee to act. A Republican aide told the Washington Examiner the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform is digging into the claim.
"The allegation that data gathered by the Census Bureau is being manipulated for any reason is extremely serious," the GOP aide said. "The Oversight Committee has jurisdiction over the Census Bureau and will be thoroughly investigating these claims."