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Friday, March 16, 2012

Federal Reserve accuses BLS and media of misleading public via economic statistics

Federal Reserve Bank vs. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Federal Reserve Board Building in Washington D.C.
Economic data is falsely reported per the Federal Reserve Bank. In a publication by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the media is criticized of misusing statistics to attract readers. The article titled 'How Statistics Can Mislead: The Case of "Family Caps" in State Welfare Programs' states, "Whenever the results of a study are released, the media, interest groups and policymakers often use the findings to declare victory or dispute the ill-founded methods by which the results were obtained." It goes on to say when statistics are referred to, they are often misinterpreted. 

In another report from the Federal Reserve Board called 'Offshoring Bias in U.S. Manufacturing', and also cited by Daily Finance, it is claimed valuation of imported goods is overestimated leading to misleading economic productivity statistics.  The research states "Although costs savings are a primary driver in the shift to sourcing to foreign suppliers, the price declines associated with offshoring are not systematically observed: this is the essence of the measurement problem."

Measurement of economic statistics can also be knowingly altered to achieve different results. For example,  in 1990 Consumer Price Inflation measurements changed. According to Shadow Statistics, an organization that re-interprets and provides alternate statistical metrics, under the old inflation measurements, inflation is closer to 10 percent. That number may not seem like a lot, but it is very disturbing considering savings accounts, government bonds, dividends, certificates of deposit and a handful of other investments don't even yield half that. 

This is not just a U.S. problem, recently a Chinese statistical agency was found to have released falsified data as well according to Bloomberg. This agency did not just manipulate data however, they collected false information from producers and service providers. Since those numbers are used in estimated the Chinese Gross Domestic Product, then that big number which many people look was quite possibly overstated, and most certainly wrong.  Does this mean when positive GDP statistics are released bullish equity movements based on that data are "bubbular" in nature?

It's not just economic data that is misleading, law enforcement agencies do the same thing. For example, in 2010 a whistle-blower uncovered  falsification of crime fighting data compiled by the NYPD per NBC. That's another topic with the point being it is probably naiive to believe or think all information published by government sources is not subject to some kind of political or economic agenda. The evidence is overwhelming, yet, much of the time data is taken at face value. Perhaps there is already too much to worry about in the World, but does that mean ignoring things like this is a better choice?

Image license: AgnosticPreachersKid, CC BY-SA 3.0