NY Times columnist Krugman: Good jobs report suggests Trump admin may have 'gotten to' Labor bureau

The Nobel Laureate later apologized, said, 'I was just covering myself'

Updated: June 5, 2020 - 1:34pm

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Longtime New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is suggesting that the Bureau of Labor Statistics may have been compromised by the Trump administration, following the agency's release Friday on an unexpectedly low May unemployment report. 

The jobless rate fell last month by 1.4 percentage points, to 13.3% – a tentative yet encouraging sign that the economy may be rebounding from months of lockdowns imposed by state governors during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Trump on Friday called the jobs report a "stunner," a "stupendous number" and "joyous." But Krugman – a Nobel Laureate and economist who has written for the Times's op-ed page for roughly 20 years – appeared sharply suspicious of the May numbers.

"This being the Trump era, you can't completely discount the possibility that they've gotten to the "Bureau of Labor Statistic, Krugman tweeted, adding, "It's much more likely that the models used to produce these numbers – they aren't really raw data – have gone haywire in a time of pandemic."

After receiving sharp pushback on that theory, including from Harvard professor Jason Furman and former Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Erica Groshen, Krugman quickly walked back his remarks. 

"Getting a lot of outraged pushback over even allowing the possibility of something amiss at BLS," he said. "I was just covering myself, because so many weird things have happened lately."

"But I apologize for any suggestion that a highly professional agency might have been corrupted," he said acknowledging in a subsequent tweet that "the modest job gains may well have been real, not an artifact of the models."