When the U.S. government’s official jobs report for May came out on Friday, it included a note at the bottom saying there had been a major “error” and the unemployment rate likely should be higher than the widely report 13.3 percent rate.

The special note said that if this misclassification error had not occurred, the “overall unemployment rate would have been about 3 percentage points higher than reported,” meaning the unemployment rate would be about 16.3 percent for May.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agency that puts out the monthly jobs reports, said it was working to fix the problem.

“BLS and the Census Bureau are investigating why this misclassification error continues to occur and are taking additional steps to address the issue,” said a note at the bottom of the Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Some took this as a sign that President Trump or one of his staffers might have tinkered with the data to make it look better, especially since most forecasters predicted the unemployment rate would be close to 20 percent in May, up from 14.7 percent in April. But economists and former BLS leaders from across the political strongly dismissed the idea that Trump or anyone else tampered with the data.

Economists say the BLS was trying to be as transparent as possible about how hard it is to collect real-time data during a pandemic. The BLS admitted that some people who should have been classified as “temporarily unemployed” during the shutdown were instead misclassified as employed but “absent” from work for “other reasons.”


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