Patterico's Pontifications


Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers™: Trump and Unemployment

Filed under: Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers™,General — Patterico @ 7:48 am

Politi(cized)Fact has a piece that rates a Donald Trump claim about unemployment as “Pants on Fire.” Here’s Trump’s claim:

During the Sept. 28, 2015, media event, Trump described an unemployment rate in the range of 5 percent as “such a phony number.”

“The number isn’t reflective,” he said. “I’ve seen numbers of 24 percent — I actually saw a number of 42 percent unemployment. Forty-two percent.” He continued, “5.3 percent unemployment — that is the biggest joke there is in this country. … The unemployment rate is probably 20 percent, but I will tell you, you have some great economists that will tell you it’s a 30, 32. And the highest I’ve heard so far is 42 percent.”

Note: Trump did not say unemployment was 42%. He said he has seen a number that high.

Of course, 5.3% unemployment is a joke of a number. So has Donald Trump seen a number as high as 42%? Why, it turns out he has! An analysis by David Stockman puts the real unemployment rate at near that number, as Politi(cized)Fact explains:

We asked the Trump campaign for a source of the 42 percent figure, but they didn’t respond. The Fact Checker, however, traced it back to a column by David Stockman, who served as President Ronald Reagan’s budget director.

Stockman calculated that there are currently 210 million Americans between the ages of 16 and 68 — what he calls a “plausible measure of the potential workforce.” If you assume that each of those people is able to hold down a full-time job, he wrote, they would offer a total of 420 billion potential working hours. However, during 2014, Stockman noted, only 240 billion working hours were actually recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If you run the numbers, “the real unemployment rate was 42.9 percent,” Stockman wrote.

Stockman admits that this analysis cannot account for groups such as “non-working wives, students, the disabled, early retirees and coupon clippers.” The number, then, is admittedly not perfect. Politi(cized)Fact’s conclusion: Because Trump did see a 42% (really more like 43%) number, but we don’t like it because it’s not perfect . . . PANTS ON FIRE, BABY!!!!!1!!1!

Politi(cized)Fact claims: “The highest alternative unemployment-rate measure we could come up with that had any credibility was 14.8 percent.” And how do they get there? I’ll tell you.

We started with the 94 million Americans age 16 and up who are not either (1) employed, (2) unemployed, (3) in the military or (4) institutionalized. We then subtracted the number of people who have good reasons not to be working or looking for work.

Let’s look at who they subtract out:

  • Ages 16 to 19. Because being 19 years old is a good reason not to work.
  • Those receiving disability checks. This ignores that NPR did an expose about the explosion of disability claims in recent years (my post about it was here). Has there been an actual increase in disability? No, just in disability claims — because now, if you have back pain, or sleep apnea, or diabetes, or claim depression, you can collect disability — which means millions have moved off the welfare rolls and into this more lucrative form of sponging from the government. Doesn’t mean they necessarily have a good reason not to work.
  • Stay-at-home moms or dads. This might be legit or it might not, but certainly there are people who are unemployed and would prefer to be employed, but have children. Are they all “stay-at-home” moms or dads? This is not explained.

I could go on, but you get the idea: Politi(cized)Fact’s numbers are . . . not perfect.

By their standards, that makes their 14.8% number a lie.

So: Trump claims he saw a 42% number. He did. A number that high has been published by a well-known economist. His number is not perfect, but neither is Politi(cized)Fact’s substitute.

Trump’s claim was true and was nevertheless awarded a “Pants on Fire.”

Patterico’s new “Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers” series hereby rates Politi(cized)Fact’s claim: “You Mother[expletive deleted]s Are Totally Dishonest.”

41 Responses to “Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers™: Trump and Unemployment”

  1. That puts a smile on my face to start my day. Politifiction needs more public exposure for it’s inept analysis. Just like the fact checker at the Washington Post.

    Dave (e1f266)

  2. I agree with you that Polifact is mostly useless, but I think smart conservatives should stick to quoting the Labor Force Participation Rate which everyone acknowledges is the lowest it has been since 1977, in the middle of our stagflation years. Republican candidates can explain that while official unemployment is low, the figure is because so many people have stopped looking for a job (including those who have gone on permanent disability, those who continue to live off of government assistance, and older Americans of retirement age who might prefer to continue working but cannot land a job) and after a certain period of time they no longer count in the ranks of the official unemployed. The Labor Force Participation Rate is a rock-solid statistic that not even Polifact can deny, and it tells the story that conservatives want told: that despite the rosy economic news emanating from the White House, not enough Americans are working.

    JVW (ba78f9)

  3. And then there is this: Disability claims by persons over 50 years old are not seriously questioned in this administration. So, basically a doctor’s note will suffice as “proof.”

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  4. OTOH, I have met people with severe sleep apnia, who fall asleep constantly during the day and snore louder than a chaingun. They are probably unemployable due to their condition. I was speaking at a convention panel one time with someone with that condition in the front row (of course) and it was truly an amazing focus-destroyer every few minutes.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  5. i give the PolitiFact SEVEN bruschettas cause of how stupid they are

    looks like propaganda slut Louis Jacobson has “checked” 9 candidates recently

    Hillary, with all her lies about the email and the sleazy Foundation her herpetic husband and otherwise-unemployed loser daughter run, chucklebutt has only checked once (she’s super truthful chucklebutt says)

    he’s gone after Ben Carson 3 times already – he’s a big fat lying black man says Louis

    happyfeet (a037ad)

  6. Worst. President. Ever.

    Barack Obama
    his pussifaction factor
    cannot be DISmissed

    Colonel Haiku (fd5d8b)

  7. Whatever the real unemployment number is, it’s tremendous, it’s YUGE.

    Colonel Haiku (fd5d8b)

  8. Even if you take the size of the work force – 250 million – and divide it into the number of eligible people out of said work force – 94 million – you get 37% unemployment.

    As told by Bernie Sanders back in July.

    So Bernie’s right, Stockman’s right, and The Donald’s right.

    In the words of Nathan Brittles, “There’s three aces for you!”.

    formwiz (6b3a5a)

  9. Patterico’s new “Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers” series hereby rates Politi(cized)Fact’s claim: “You Mother[expletive deleted]s Are Totally Dishonest.”

    I love your rating system, Patterico. 0 Pinocchio’s!

    Hoagie™ (f4eb27)

  10. Trump was right the way Carly Fiorina was not.

    Sammy Finkelman (2972ba)

  11. One more case where a media fact-checker rates something literally true (I have seen numbers as high as 42%) as literally false.

    Let’s not forget the infamous “true but false” rating given to the RNC.

    We cannot fault the RNC’s math, as the numbers add up. But at this point this figure doesn’t mean very much. It may simply a function of a coincidence of timing — a brief blip that could have little to do with “Obama’s job market.”

    If trends hold up over the next few months, then the RNC might have a better case. But at this point we will give this statistic our rarely used label:


    Gabriel Hanna (64d4e1)

  12. My chocolate ration increased from 4 ounces to 2 ounces. F@#$ the numbers. If it makes Obama look bad, it’s false.

    nk (9faaca)

  13. That might be the one good thing about Campaign We Shall Overcomb, if it keeps Obama’s buttboys hopping to provide him cover.

    nk (9faaca)

  14. These types of debates remind me of the destruction that lawyers have inflicted on our society.

    Folks wants accuracy to irrelevant points for no purpose other than to play gotcha.

    Bigger issues get buried under a slew of nonsense.

    But it confuses enough people who don’t know the difference between good analysis and bad b/c they are going ape shit over some discrepancies in the data set.

    Rodney King's Spirit (ab8c0d)

  15. As my daughter’s former Platoon Sergeant taught her, “Liars, cheaters, and thieves are the lowest of the low.” Here, we have a bunch of people lying for Leftist political benefit, all the while showing within their own work that their lies do not hold up to the truth.

    I am not a Trump supporter. I will never vote for Trump. It disgusts me that he still has supporters. And yet, I will not use lies like these to falsely attack Trump. Because I’m better than that.

    John Hitchcock (31d6d0)

  16. you’re


    happyfeet (a037ad)

  17. First calculate 2 numbers: 1. the number of American citizens ready and willing to work; and 2. the number of illegal aliens working in America.

    That 2nd number is the number of additional Americans who could be employed, paying US taxes, and not collecting government assistance. They would be spending their pay checks stimulating the US economy, instead of stimulating the economies of foreign nations.

    Every illegal alien working in the US is taking a job an American citizen is ready and willing to do, contrary to the insane nonsense spewed by fools, demagogues, and ‘useful’ idiots.

    ropelight (f3a7c6)

  18. Breaking ones arm, patting oneself on back is very progressive.

    mg (31009b)

  19. my daughter’s former Platoon Sergeant – heh.

    Right after Sarg dumped the contents of everyone’s foot locker in the middle of the squad bay. Should have used that padlock Uncle Sam provided.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  20. 50 shootings in Chicago just last weekend, perhaps I missed Obama lecturing the American people about that. #DemsDon’tEmbarrassEasy

    Colonel Haiku (fd5d8b)

  21. Platoon Sergeant, not Drill Sergeant. And she lived off-post. Try again, doofus.

    John Hitchcock (31d6d0)

  22. By the by, papertiger, you’ve been proven to throw around lies remorselessly here on this site. Is that why you’re being such a doofus here?

    John Hitchcock (31d6d0)

  23. so many people have stopped looking for a job (including those who have gone on permanent disability, those who continue to live off of government assistance,

    Disability is the new unemployment. Once the benefits run out, the person applies for SS disability.

    That way you get twofer. Unemployment plus SS runs out of money faster.

    Mike K (90dfdc)

  24. Another good thing for stopping thieves is a fence. A big beautiful fence. Huge fence even. And you can paint it whatever color. Nice surface for hanging signs.

    The wolf
    is shaved
    so neat and trim
    Red Riding Hood
    is chasing him.


    papertiger (c2d6da)

  25. Like my youngest brother said: Locks only serve to keep honest people honest.

    John Hitchcock (31d6d0)

  26. John. I got a message for you from Ron White. Here.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  27. I am not a Trump supporter. I will never vote for Trump. It disgusts me that he still has supporters. And yet, I will not use lies like these to falsely attack Trump. Because I’m better than that.

    You didn’t mention your allegiance to Mexico.

    That’s false advertising.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  28. judging people who get abortions is so easy

    things what are hard are include making pierogi and doing routing tables

    happyfeet (1c4d36)

  29. is wrong thread

    happyfeet (1c4d36)

  30. By the by, papertiger, you’ve been proven to throw around lies remorselessly here on this site. Is that why you’re being such a doofus here?

    John Hitchcock (31d6d0) —

    Calumny, slander, and insults. You have the morals of a New York Times reporter.
    Should try and fix that. Visit the confession booth or something.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  31. You see, papertiger, you just lied about me again, in this thread. You really can’t help yourself, can you?

    John Hitchcock (31d6d0)

  32. The hell you say.


    papertiger (c2d6da)

  33. John somebody stole my lawnmower. Right off the porch. They didn’t leave any card or note behind, so I can only guess.

    Being in California, chances are extremely likely, it was someone as honest as you.

    My fault really. Should have built a fence.

    If only I had.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  34. For new readers John Hitchcock is a Mexican, or so he claims (actually he’s American but not proud of the fact. Much like a pre 2008 Michelle Obama.), who doesn’t want to go back home.

    So he’s nursing his hurt feelings by slandering Trump as often as possible.
    papertiger (c2d6da) — 9/24/2015 @ 1:14 pm

    John loves him some Mexicans this time of year.

    You don’t have to be lonely John @Farmersonlydotcom
    papertiger (c2d6da) — 9/9/2015 @ 11:58 am

    Papertiger, do you have something against Mexicans? It sounds like you do. I’m part Mexican, and many people on this board have known I am part Mexican for years now. I’m also part Indian (feather). I’m also part Irish. And my daughter is more Indian (feather) than am I. And my grandson is more black than Obama is. And the lady in my life is Asian. So now you have more ammunition for your racial attacks against me.

    Again, you are one great big huge piece of fecal matter.

    And before you start on the illegal immigration issue, study up before you make yourself look even more idiotic than you just did.
    John Hitchcock (81341d) — 9/9/2015 @ 12:39 pm

    Oh, and papertiger, I’m also a Jew lover, as can be readily seen by clicking my name.
    John Hitchcock (81341d) — 9/9/2015 @ 12:44 pm

    I also refuse to vote for the Socialist who is to the Left of the RINOs in the Republican campaign

    Said the guy who claimed allegiance with Mexico.
    papertiger (c2d6da) — 9/10/2015 @ 11:38 am

    As you can see, you lied about what I said, in the thread where I said it. You lied about me then, and you are lying about me now. It’s all you have to combat me: lying about me.
    John Hitchcock (e5f961) — 9/24/2015 @ 1:34 pm

    And you’re still lying about me. Again, that’s all you have is lies.

    John Hitchcock (31d6d0)

  35. Are you going to run away like you did in those other threads and lie about me some more in a future thread, or are you going to confess and repent of your sins against me?

    John Hitchcock (31d6d0)

  36. Mexican is a nationality. Mexico is a country, not a race. Since Mexico doesn’t naturalize immigrants into citizens, you can’t be part Mexican. You can be part Latino. You can have a parent from Mexico. But you can not be part Mexican.

    Doesn’t matter whether you want to be, or not. You can’t be. There is no such animal. You can only present the facade, donned when convenient to play the victim.

    Your race card has been revoked. Sorry.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  37. Do I have a problem with Mexicans?

    Well I’m missing my lawn mower.

    What I need is a huge fence. Then all my problems with Mexico will vanish.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  38. You fail at both logic and integrity. As expected.

    John Hitchcock (31d6d0)

  39. And another thing. How I found Patterico Pontifications in the first place, a referral from Little Green Footballs. You ever heard of the site?

    Well back in the day, before Charles went full anti-Christian, back when he spent his time discrediting Dan Rather, I’d hang out there. You know their history?
    You can’t find a more militantly pro Israeli news aggregator. I found common cause with Jews back when it wasn’t cool.

    Your implication that I am some sort of anti-semite is grotesquely offensive to me.
    The of the differences between you and I being I don’t piss my self whining when some ahole abuses my name on the internet. Don’t have time for it.

    So you can FOAD for all I care – Familiar with that term? Bet you are.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  40. Correction -One of the differences –

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  41. One other thing. You said, “As my daughter’s former Platoon Sergeant taught her”.
    Why would you say that? Is it a normal occurrence for a man to take advice and life lessons from an adult daughter’s Platoon Sergeant. You hover over her in the fox hole now, or what?

    Let me guess. You wanted to slip that your daughter is serving in the military into the conversation to inoculate yourself, as you bash Trump and his supporters, for daring to believe that this country has borders that need defending.

    Borders that deserve a fence. A huge fence.
    Your daughter believes it. She took an oath to defend our borders. So what’s your malfunction?

    papertiger (c2d6da)

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