Among Donald Trump’s stump sound bites is that the national unemployment rate is far, far higher than the official rate of 4.9 percent. He is not alone in making such claims. Both former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who dropped out of the presidential race last year, and retired surgeon Ben Carson have repeated this claim during this election cycle. Its origin dates back to the 2012 election when many Republicans believed that Barack Obama had ordered the Bureau of Labor Statistics to report a much lower unemployment rate in October, just before the election, than seemed plausible. It also feeds into a growing distrust for government statistical data that parallels a denial of scientific facts such as climate change.
The reason the stupid conspiracy theory has power, though, is because the "official" unemployment rate does not take into account the number of "discouraged" workers currently not actively seeking employment or the number of underemployed workers forced to take jobs below at lower pay rates or for fewer hours than actually meet their needs.
The truth is a lot of people out there don't feel like they are making it. So when BLS turns out what are supposed to be improving unemployment numbers, we should expect a natural disconnect. And when supposed liberals like Hillary Clinton trumpet those numbers as evidence of an improving economy they only demonstrate which side of that disconnect they are on.
Which, in turn, opens the door for people like Donald Trump to sell them a stupid conspiracy theory. A crazy lie that at least speaks to the voters' real pain is going to be more effective than a sophisticated half-truth that dismisses it.