The 5 Most Overhyped Economic Stories of 2012

Bacon shortages? Facebook's stock offering? There were bigger fish to fry.

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[BEST YEAR EVER: Top 10 Winners of 2012]

As it turns out, voters didn't get the memo to check unemployment charts before heading to the polling place. According to one analysis, President Obama actually did better where the jobs situation was worst. Jed Kolko, chief economist at Trulia, found that a larger improvement in the labor market during the last four years was in fact correlated to a larger share of votes for Romney.

It's counter-intuitive but worth setting an Outlook reminder for November 2016 in order to remember: the jobs report won't decide the election.

Also, the Jobs Numbers Are Rigged

The September jobs report was a surprise, no doubt, showing that the economy added a measly 114,000 jobs but that the unemployment rate also ticked down by a whopping 0.3 percentage points.

It raised eyebrows and gave us all a lesson in the difference between the establishment survey and the household survey. It also showed us that the jobs report is the subject of far more skepticism and politicization than we may have thought.

[READ: Women Make Little Progress in Fortune 500 in 2012]

"Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers," wrote Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, in a now-infamous tweet.

If the average Twitter user had said it, the statement might have raised an eyebrow. But this being a former business titan, the nation sat up and took notice—could the Labor Department be cooking the books?

Probably not. According to a Labor Department spokesman, department economists and statisticians are not political appointees and, don't report to political appointees. Even Welch himself, in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece defending his tweet, stuck to discussing the (very real) statistical uncertainty in the numbers and the complicated way that the Labor Department measures the jobless rate, largely leaving aside the accusation of White House impropriety.

"The good news is that the current debate has resulted in people giving the whole issue of unemployment data more thought," he wrote. One thing for certain came out of this kerfuffle: there is very real evidence that the unemployment rate can decline amid a worsening job market. There is not evidence that the president is putting his thumb on the scales.

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  • Danielle Kurtzleben is a business and economics reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at