After a two-year hiatus from politics, unemployment trutherism made its return to the Republican campaign trail on Monday, making a brief appearance alongside Rick Perry at an Iowa breakfast.
According to Bloomberg Politics reporter Dave Weigel, the former Texas governor told a gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition that they couldn't trust the official unemployment rate coming out of Washington.
"It's been massaged, it's been doctored," Perry said, as quoted in a tweet by Weigel. (Weigel told HuffPost he was in attendance for the speech.)
Perry says official unemployment rate is unreliable: “It’s been massaged, it’s been doctored.”
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) January 26, 2015
Back in 2012, such conspiracy theories became known as unemployment or BLS trutherism, in reference to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the division of the Labor Department that's responsible for producing the unemployment rate. After some surprisingly upbeat jobs reports that bolstered the campaign of President Barack Obama, skeptical conservatives either implied or said outright that the numbers couldn't be trusted.
Perhaps most infamously, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch accused the Obama team of cooking the books to make the recovery look stronger than it was:
"Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers," tweeted Welch.
Then-Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) concurred with Welch, asserting that "Chicago style politics" were at work.
"Somehow by manipulation of data we are all of a sudden below 8 percent unemployment, a month from the Presidential election," West said.
As Ezra Klein explained at the time, the BLS is devised in such a way that the White House cannot meddle in its math, be it a Democratic or Republican administration. Betsey Stevenson, a former chief economist at the Labor Department, said that "anyone who thinks that political folks can manipulate the unemployment data are completely ignorant of how the BLS works and how the data are compiled."
Despite the fact that the unemployment rate has dropped all the way down to 5.6 percent, a presidential candidate could find plenty to criticize in the current economic recovery without resorting to conspiracy theories. The unemployment rate is higher, for instance, according to alternate BLS measures that include discouraged and involuntary part-time workers. Mitt Romney, who's flirting with another presidential run, has been speaking about how the economic gains have been going primarily to the wealthy -- a claim that has plenty of legitimate data beneath it.