By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Joe Biden’s so-called lie

I’m posting some incomplete findings in the hopes that someone else might be able to fill in the blanks.

The right-wing blogosphere is on fire right now with claims that Joe Biden “lied” when he said that Louisiana is losing 400 jobs a day. Biden made his remarks in the course of criticizing Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal of more than $90 million in additional unemployment funds. A local newscast in Louisiana, citing the state employment agency, claims that the state actually added jobs in December, the last month for which numbers are available.

Well, now. If you take a visit to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you will see that Louisiana’s unemployment rate rose from 3.8 percent in June to 5.9 percent in December. During that time, 45,065 people in Louisiana lost their jobs. That adds up to approximately 250 per day — not 400, I’ll grant you, but a damned high number, and certainly one that contradicts the notion that the state was actually adding jobs. [Actually, yes. Biden was right. See update, below.]

Now it’s nearly March. We know that the recession and unemployment have accelerated over the past two months. I don’t have January and February numbers of Louisiana, but I may just be looking in the wrong places. But I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if an average of 400 people a day have been losing their jobs in Louisiana since the first of the year.

Yes, I realize that the local report I’m linking to claims that Louisiana’s unemployment filings actually declined through mid-January. But remember, that same report says Louisiana gained jobs in December, which is directly contradicted by the federal numbers.

Anybody know where I can get credible preliminary unemployment estimates for January and February?

Update: The answer was staring me right in the face. Steve points out that Louisiana lost an average of 430 jobs a day in December.

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Did Jindal fake his anecdote?


The end of the Rocky Mountain News


  1. Steve

    Looking at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (, even the December numbers are labeled preliminary. They show 108553 unemployed in Nov 08 and 121949 (a preliminary number) in Dec 08.Using these numbers, unemployment in Louisiana rose by 13396 in December, or about 430 per day. Employment dropped from 1941515 to 1939131 and the labor force grew from 2050068 to 2061080.

  2. MeTheSheeple

    I’m not quite sure where you guys have been looking. I suspect the phrase “seasonally adjusted” may be unusually relevant here.I looked at the Louisiana Workforce Commission site. The not seasonally adjusted data from June to December seems to show about 108 fewer people working each day, with the about 77 losing their jobs over time.June ’08 employed: 1,952,099June ’08 unemployed: 99,268December ’08 employed: 1,932,664December ’08 unemployed: 113,162Given roughly 180 days in that time period, the numbers aren’t even in the ballpark. Now, with them not seasonally adjusted December’s going to look better — all those temporary mall clerks — but I don’t see that happening.Now, if I compare December ’07 to December ’08, I show an unemployment increase of about 101 jobs per day. Interestingly, the state says *more* Louisianans were working in December ’08 than in December ’07.Make what you will of this. I don’t see a 400 figure coming out of the state numbers. And where Dan’s citing federal figures of 45,000 job losses in the second half of ’08, I’m seeing 14,000 — not even a third of that.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Sheeple: Not sure what you’re looking at with respect to the federal numbers. I think Steve nailed it, and it explains why Biden made his 400-jobs-per-day claim. I’m looking at the same numbers he is.I agree that the seasonal jobs may have thrown things off, but we’re not trying to do economic analysis — we’re trying to come up with the basis for Biden’s claim. What he said was completely accurate. I’ll leave it to others to decide whether it’s also true.The 45,000? Total number of unemployed in June: 76,884. Total in December: 121,949.

  4. MeTheSheeple

    Dan, sorry — I was pointing out some really big discrepancies between the state and federal figures. The numbers I cited earlier were all from the state.State figures for Nov-Dec: 10,829 increase in unemployment (349/day)19,672 fewer working (635/day)

  5. Michael Pahre

    Now that you’ve found out where Biden got his numbers (whether or not you believe them to account correctly for seasonal variations), I wonder where the naysayers’ data come from?Your local KSLA newscast link obliquely references data from the LA State Workforce Commission: “‘In December, Louisiana was the only state in the nation besides the District of Columbia, according to the national press release, that added employment over the month,’ said Patty Granier with the Louisiana Workforce Commission.”If you actually look at the press release, you see that Granier appears to have misstated it — or the news station misreported what she said. The PR says “Louisiana was the only state in the country with an increase in nonfarm jobs from November to December,” where you see the “nonfarm” qualified in the PR that was not in the KSLA quote.The PR continues to state, “Louisiana’s unemployment rate for December 2008 was 5.9 percent, up from the November 2008 revised rate of 5.3 percent… The number of unemployed in Louisiana in December 2008 increased to 121,949 from 108,553 in November.” The last two numbers are the 400 jobs/day Biden referred to, and these excerpts contradict the essence of the KSLA story.Odd that the public affairs person for the LA Workforce Commission would mis-quote her agency’s own press release.

  6. Brad

    Now that you’ve found out where Biden got his numbers (whether or not you believe them to account correctly for seasonal variations), I wonder where the naysayers’ data come from?If you’ve got a doctor and a flashlight, I can show you EXACTLY where it comes from! 🙂

  7. O-FISH-L

    Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get into university? Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get into university? Was it because all our predecessors were thick? Did they lack talent? Those people who could sing and play and recite and write poetry? The people who could make wonderful, beautiful things with their hands? Those people who could dream dreams, see visions? Why didn’t they get it? Was it because they were weak? Those people who could work eight hours underground and then come up and play football? Weak? Does anybody really think that they didn’t get what we had because they didn’t have the talent or the strength or the endurance or the commitment? Of course not. It was because there was no platform upon which they could stand.”—-“I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? Why is it that my wife who is sitting out there in the audience is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because I’m the first Biden in a thousand generations to get a college and a graduate degree that I was smarter than the rest? Those same people who read poetry and wrote poetry and taught me how to sing verse? Is it because they didn’t work hard? My ancestors, who worked in the coal mines of Northeast Pennsylvania and would come up after 12 hours and play football for four hours? No, it’s not because they weren’t as smart. It’s not because they didn’t work as hard. It’s because they didn’t have a platform upon which to stand.”

  8. O'Reilly

    Update: The answer was staring me right in the face. Steve points out that Louisiana lost an average of 430 jobs a day in December.According to GOP logic, Biden was “lying” becuase the actual number of jobs lost per day was 430 not 400 in Louisiana. Also, anyone who doesn’t gets the facts right must be doing so with intent to deceive. And finally, tell me why Jindal is accepting $3.7 billion worth of $3.8 billion allocated but not the $100 million in unemployment insurance payments for out of work wage-earners? I hop Patrick let BO know we’ll take it.

  9. Dan Kennedy

    If you read the transcript of Jindal’s interview on MTP, he keeps saying he “represents the taxpayers of Louisiana.” Sounds good, except not everyone is a taxpayer, especially people down on their luck. Doesn’t he represent the people of Louisiana?

  10. twallack

    Just to set the record straight, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that “Louisiana added 3,000 jobs in December.” And the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Louisiana gained jobs in December as well. See the BLS report at:, the BLS said the state had 1,949,000 nonfarm jobs in December 2008, up from 1,945,300 in November 2008 and 1,940,800 in December 2007, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (The figures for December are preliminary.) These are the figures that most economics and financial reporters use when they talk about job growth in a state. However, you’re also right that the unemployment rate rose from November to December. That’s partly because more people “entered the workforce” — or started looking for jobs. But it’s also because fewer people reported having jobs.So, why the discrepancy? The job numbers are based on a payroll survey of thousands of employers, while the unemployment rate is based on a random poll of households. The payroll survey is generally considered more precise, and is therefore watched more closely by economists. But it also omits people who are self-employed or who work for very small businesses that aren’t included in the payroll survey. So the figures don’t always agree.

  11. Dan Kennedy

    twallack: Thanks for that clarification. As I said, my aim was to show that Biden had a basis for his numbers, not to analyze those numbers. But, as we’ve seen, the feds report that the number of unemployed in Louisiana increased by more than 13,000 in December. As Steve showed, even the total number of people working dropped.

  12. Geoffrey

    Actually everyone is wrongAccording to the Louisiana Workforce Commission claims for unemployment insurance decreased to 4,053 for the week ending February 14, 2009579 per day7 days a week

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