Former GE CEO Welch defends jobless stat tweet; says Obama aide made same claim

Former General Electric Chairman Jack Welch vigorously defended himself after coming under fire for suggesting the Obama administration manipulated recent jobs numbers. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Welch claimed that a top economic adviser to President Obama once suggested the very same thing about the George W. Bush administration.

Welch came under fire from top Democrats and members of the media for questioning Friday's unemployment figures reflecting a drop in the jobless rate to 7.8 percent in September.

"Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers," he tweeted.

The tweet opened him to ridicule, with Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs saying Sunday that the notion was "dangerous" and that Welch had embarrassed himself. Welch also has since ended his columns with both Fortune and Reuters.

Welch, in his op-ed Wednesday, said if he could do it all over again, "I would have added a few question marks at the end ... to make it clear I was raising a question."

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But he said he's "not sorry for the heated debate that ensued."

Further, he noted that former Obama Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee made a similar comment in a 2003 New York Times column.

At the time, Goolsbee expressed skepticism toward numbers showing faster-than-expected economic growth. And he said the jobless rate had been kept down "only because" programs like Social Security disability kept people off the unemployment rolls.

"In other words, the government has cooked the books," Goolsbee wrote.

Goolsbee fired back on Wednesday, though, accusing Welch of taking his quote out of context by not citing the preceding sentence.

“Jack, you completely mis-cited my old nyt piece. Go read it. It was about both parties' policy in congress not Admin chging #s” he tweeted.

Welch said in his op-ed that the process used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is vulnerable to "subjectivity."

Most economists weighing in last week on the September jobless number did not go so far as to claim the government was manipulating the stats. However, a number of economists on both sides of the aisle said the number may have been a "fluke," noting that a separate but related survey did not reflect nearly as much job growth last month.

"The coming election is too important to be decided on a number," Welch wrote. "Especially when that number seems so wrong."

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