June 11, 2020 at 12:23 AM EDT
What the Labor Department is doing about the ‘error’ that led to a lower unemployment rate
The government agency that compiles the official U.S. unemployment rate — the Bureau of Labor Statistics — said it is still working to fix an unprecedented data-collection error that has badly skewed the rate, dismissing suggestions that data had been manipulated.
The May jobs report included an unusual note saying that the unemployment rate would have been 16.3 percent, not the official rate of 13.3 percent, if not for errors made during the data’s collection, a problem that also plagued monthly reports in March and April. Both the official and corrected May unemployment rates showed improvement compared with April figures. The errors have sowed doubt among some parts of the public about the integrity of the figures, as the economy has cratered during the pandemic.
William W. Beach, an appointee of President Trump who became Bureau of Labor Statistics commissioner in 2019, said that the agency is working to improve its data-collection process during the pandemic. Any questions about whether the unemployment rate had been tampered with stem from an “enormous ignorance” of how his agency works, he said.
By Eli Saslow and Heather Long