"Damned Lies" in Reckless NY1 Campaign

John Tepper Marlin
HuffPost New York

Congressman Tim Bishop (D-NY1) has represented the East End of Long Island since January 2003, having defeated Randy Altschuler (R-C-I) in 2010. This year Altschuler is mounting another challenge against the 12th-generation Long Islander. He claims in his August 22 campaign letter that Rep. Bishop's votes in Congress since 2003 have "forced more than 30,000 jobs to leave Long Island." To use someone else's term -- see below -- it's a "damned lie," and the outsourced-to-New-Jersey Altschuler campaign knows it.

Every month for 13 years, as chief economist to three elected New York City comptrollers, I studied area job numbers. The latest month of data for payroll jobs on Long Island is July 2012. Compare this number with the number for the same month in 2002, the year Rep. Bishop was elected:

July 2012 1,253,900 jobs
July 2002 1,217,600 jobs
Increase = 36,300 jobs

That's 66,300 jobs better than Altschuler's claim.

Rep. Bishop's district suffered from the financial meltdown under George W. Bush and has since rebounded under President Obama, just like the nation. Two charts show this clearly. The late great Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan hit the nail on the head:

"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."

The Altschuler campaign website has recently backtracked on its claim by referring to the unemployment survey. But higher unemployment doesn't necessarily mean fewer jobs and it could signify increased confidence in the local economy, leading discouraged workers to start taking active steps again to apply for a position. Employed people may be taking on more than one job.

There are other problems with the unemployment numbers for the purpose Altschuler is using them. Job numbers are based on payroll reports from 400,000 U.S. businesses. Unemployment numbers are based on a small sample of households -- for Suffolk County the sample size is about 300. The BLS has many warnings about misuse of the household survey. The latest metro numbers are "preliminary." The numbers are "controlled to statewide totals" and inputs may be "revised" and "re-estimated." Because the county samples are so small, the monthly data are not seasonally adjusted.

Barbara Denham, chief economist of Eastern Consolidated even argues that the gap between the two employment surveys is an error resulting from re-estimation of the data using the controversial 2010 census.

I agree with Greg David that to cite small-area monthly data from the unemployment survey as if it were a reliable, timely measure of the local economy, while ignoring for political reasons the much more broadly based payroll jobs survey, is improper. When the error has been repeatedly pointed out, using the data rises to the level of "a damned lie."