Woodward’s Book Shows Gary Cohn Misused Jobs Data in Monthly Presentations to Trump

White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn arrives to speak during the daily press briefing, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Gary Cohn repeatedly used government data on people voluntarily leaving their jobs in an attempt to convince President Donald Trump that American workers did not want manufacturing jobs, Bob Woodward claims in his new book.

But the data Cohn used showed no such thing. If Cohn was using this as Woodward claims, he was giving misinformation to the president.

Here’s the passage from Fear:

Each month Cohn brought Trump the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, called JOLTS, conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He realized he was being an asshole by rubbing it in because each month was basically the same, but he didn’t care.

“Mr. President, can I show this to you?” Cohn fanned out the pages of data in front of the president. “See, the biggest leavers of jobs–people leaving voluntarily–was from manufacturing.

Julia Pollak pointed out that this is a misrepresentation of the data.

Cohn’s claim simply was not true. In fact, manufacturing has a relatively low rate of people quitting their jobs. Restaurants and hotel workers, as well as people in professional and business services, are more likely to quit, to take two examples.

And as Pollak points out, quits are not an indication that someone has left a sector of the economy altogether. More often, people quit to take better jobs in the same sector where they were already employed. This is one reason economists typically interpret rising levels of quits as signals of economic strength.

Perhaps Cohn himself misunderstood the meaning of the JOLTS data.

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