Update – Data Paranoia Watch: “I’ve read that others think CES was manipulated to create a rosier picture ahead of the election”

Reader Steve Kopitz writes about the debate over the number of employees:

At the same time, I considered it possible that both surveys were in fact correct, but skewed by the effect of suppression recovery, which created a misleading impression because we misinterpreted the data. It still seems possible, although I’ve read that others think CES was manipulated to create a rosier picture ahead of the election.

This statement joins a long stack of such statements, for example, Senator Barrazo, Jack Welch, former rep. Allan West, Zerohedge, Mick Mulvaney, among others. All I can say is that if there was a conspiracy, they didn’t do a very good job. Thanks to the revision of the January benchmark, we can update our assessment of how poorly the alleged conspirators did their jobs.

Picture 1: Nonfarm payrolls in the January 2023 report (red), in the October 2022 report (blue), in thousands of sa, source: BLS via FRED.

Now, over time, it may turn out (after the next revision of the benchmark, the results of which will be made public in February 2024), that in the second quarter NFP will be lower than indicated by CES. But for voter fraud in November 2022, it seems like a lousy way to go.

In any case, before people start screaming about the data being manipulated, I would like them to read the BLS technical notes on (1) revisions and mean absolute changes, (2) benchmark revisions, (3) calculation of seasonal adjustment factors, ( 4) Application of population control in CIPF. Before they start quoting the various series, I would like them to understand the informational content (relative to business cycle fluctuations) of the CPS employment series compared to that of the CES employment series. This understanding can be gained by reading the work of people who understand the characteristics of macro data (Furman (2016); CEA (2017); Goto et al (2021)).

From a sociological standpoint, I wonder why conspiracy theories are so appealing to some people. Here Scientific American article laying out some character traits that are associated with adherence to conspiracy theories.

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