Krugman: On second thought, maybe Trump didn't corrupt BLS and this jobs report is real

Krugman: On second thought, maybe Trump didn't corrupt BLS and this jobs report is real

Perhaps Paul Krugman would have been better off not putting his first thoughts out on social media. After a stunningly positive jobs report this morning, many media figures found themselves a bit wrongfooted over the contradiction against expectations. Rather than simply disputing the outcome from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though, the New York Times columnist suggested that Donald Trump corrupted the analysts to get a false boost:

Why not just stick with “quirky”? After all, the data is very quirky these days, thanks to unprecedented government intervention to shut down commerce over the last two months. Data from BLS and the Department of Labor paint contradictory pictures, which is why most economists expected another month of massive job losses rather than the biggest gain in 80 years of monthly BLS jobs reports. Questions about the models certainly seem appropriate, even if those are defensible with the data at hand.

Accusing Trump of somehow co-opting a federal bureaucracy to explain the numbers is, on the other hand, tinfoil hat territory. Did anyone know that careerists with the BLS had a secret affection for Donald “Deep State” Trump? Come on, man. It didn’t take long for a blizzard of rebukes to land on Krugman’s head, including this very specific rebuke from a former member of Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers:

To be fair, a few of Barack Obama’s critics used to suggest that he had corrupted the BLS to explain the more positive of the jobs reports in his term, which was also nonsense. Most of those tinfoil-hat wearers were just social-media trolls, but one critic who repeatedly made that accusation seems rather, er, notable:

We may assume President Trump is quite pleased with the strong jobs report from his first full month in office: He retweeted the Drudge Report’s triumphant “GREAT AGAIN” framing of the numbers Friday morning, after touting employment figures released by payroll firm ADP earlier in the week.

Not so long ago, however, Trump’s view of the monthly jobs report, which comes courtesy of the nonpartisan federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, was markedly different. As recently as December, he described the report as “totally fiction.”

If there was any argument over whether Trump was flip-flopping on the jobs report at the precise moment it reflected positively on him, White House press secretary Sean Spicer laid it to rest Friday afternoon, telling reporters: “I talked to the president prior to this, and he said to quote him very clearly: ‘They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.’ ”

Yeah, well, down the hatch.

Later this morning, after getting barraged with criticism, Krugman backpedaled to the point of admitting that the surge in employment looked legit after all:

Tweet in haste, repent at leisure. Again, there is nothing wrong with questioning models and assumptions, especially in unprecedented environments such as this — or with COVID-19 either, the epidemiological models of which conservatives have questioned for a while. Assuming a conspiracy without evidence, however, is not exactly a model for credibility in the future.

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