White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney claimed on Sunday, without providing any evidence, that President Barack Obama’s administration was “manipulating” unemployment data.
“We thought for a long time, I did, that the Obama administration was manipulating the numbers in terms of the number of people in the workforce to make the unemployment rate, that percentage rate, look smaller than it actually was,” Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said on CNN.
There is no evidence for that claim, and Mulvaney did not provide further details.
On Monday, former Congressional Budget Office head Doug Elmendorf called Mulvaney’s claim a “shocking accusation.”
“There is no evidence for that whatsoever,” Elmendorf said on CNN. “I think he should retract that comment.”
He said that the unemployment rate is “calculated according to a set of formulas, a process for collecting data that has been in place for years.”
“The production of those numbers is not affected by who is in political power,” Elmendorf said. “That assertion of dishonesty on the part of civil servants who are working very hard to produce accurate information every month is damaging to our country.”
The claim that Obama’s administration fudged jobs data is one that President Donald Trump has pushed since long before he ran for office. In 2012, Trump accused Obama of using “a lot of monkey business” to tout a drop in the unemployment rate.
“I don’t believe the number and neither do any of the other people that have intelligence,” Trump said at the time. “Because that number came out of nowhere.”
On Friday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that while Trump repeatedly called employment numbers “phony” during the presidential campaign, they were nevertheless “very real” now that Trump is in office.