"Bollocks,"' Wharton School economist Justin Wolfers said. "Once you understand how the numbers are collected and processed, you understand that it's literally impossible to fool with the numbers.''
Manipulating the unemployment rate would require the cooperation of thousands of people -- not to mention violating federal laws.
The unemployment rate is based on a survey of 60,000 households, conducted at the middle of each month because holidays, which can result in short-term hiring or layoffs, are usually at the beginning or end of a month, said Karen Kosanovich, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics who works on the survey.
About 1,500 Census workers gather the data, and the survey dates back to 1940, Kosanovich said.