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Steep drop in unemployment rate spawns conspiracy
Unemployment » Skeptics say the Obama administration manipulated the data.

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Rep. Paul Broun, a Georgia Republican, weighed in with a statement saying the report "raises questions for me, and frankly it should be raising eyebrows for people across the country."

Economists offered more plausible reasons for skepticism. A big chunk of the increase in employed Americans came from those who had to settle for part-time work: 582,000 more people reported that they were working part-time last month but wanted full-time jobs.

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Conspiracy theories are nothing new for Obama. He has been dogged by discredited claims that he wasn’t born in this country and that he is Muslim.

"Stop with the dumb conspiracy theories. Good grief," Tony Fratto, who worked for President George W. Bush, weighed in on Twitter.

It wasn’t just the political elite commenting. Angelia Levy, a researcher at the Federal Judicial Center, the research arm of the federal judiciary, told her 588 Twitter followers that Welch’s comments were "unbelievable."

"All of the sudden they’re questioning this data that’s been reported for decades," the Democrat said in a phone interview. "It’s so hypocritical and ridiculous."

Justin Wolfers, a professor of business and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, went on Twitter to say Welch "just labeled himself an idiot."

In a follow-up phone call, Wolfers said the economists who calculate the monthly jobs report "are nerds who spend their lives crunching numbers for the public service. To impute their integrity is outrageous."

The agency has been in the political glare before.

In 1971, President Nixon took aim at it after a top official, Howard Goldstein, publicly attributed a steep drop in unemployment to largely technical factors. The administration reorganized the agency and installed several officials in newly created positions. That led to charges from Democrats that the GOP administration was politicizing the bureau.

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Welch said later in the day in a Fox News interview: "I don’t know what the right number is, but I’ll tell you, these numbers don’t smell right when you think about where the economy is right now."

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