Factchecking jobs claims: Try this at home
Voters will hear many more jobs claims before the Nov. 4 election. Here are five tips for separating fact from fiction -- and hype from hard evidence -- when it comes to candidates and the numbers they use.
1. Check the timeframe: If the statement covers a short period, it can be a red flag for cherry-picking data to find a good result. A longer time frame may be being used to mask more recent changes.
2. What is the data source?: The quarterly jobs numbers are more accurate than the monthly figures, but also more out of date. Be more skeptical of recent announcements about the monthly numbers, because they are subject to revisions that can be significant.
3. Raw numbers or percentages?: If the claim is that State X added more jobs than State Y, the statement may have limited information value. Look for percentage growth figures that level the playing field among states of varying sizes.
4. Check the map: When the claim is "best in the region," trust but verify. Are all relevant states included?
5. Scrutinize the sector: Most claims focus on just the private sector, but sometimes partisans will add in public employees if it suits their purpose.
Bonus tip: open the PolitiFact Wisconsin archive of fact checks on jobs.