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Unemployment rate tampering? Why conspiracy theorists went wild.

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Welch is best known for making GE into a corporate dynamo. When he retired, he also became known for collecting a pension that many thought was excessive. In addition to collecting $933 million, he got an annual pension of $10.5 million and a chauffeur and use of the GE corporate jet for life. As if that were not enough, GE also agreed to pay his dry cleaning bills.  

In Welch’s case, Labor Secretary Solis appeared on CNBC to refute allegations that any massaging of the data had occurred.

“You know I am insulted when I hear that because we have a very professional civil service organization where you have top economists working" at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), she said. “It is really ludicrous to hear that kind of statement.”

When it reports the unemployment data each month, the Labor Department looks at two different surveys. The first survey asks 141,000 businesses and government agencies if they have hired anyone in the past month. This is called the establishment survey, and it showed that only 114,000 people had been hired by businesses in September, compared with an average of about 140,000 per month so far this year.

At the same time, the BLS contracts out to the Department of Census to call 60,000 people every month to ask if their employment situation has changed. This household survey determines the unemployment rate.

Using the household survey, the BLS estimated that last month 873,000 people had found work. After estimating the number of people who got fired or laid off, the bureau, using that survey, said that the number of unemployed people dropped by approximately 456,000.

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