Barring that issue, the unemployment rate could have been as high as 19.2% in April and 16.1% in May, not including seasonal adjustments, the BLS said.
“I fear that because this was a fairly serious misclassification that people are going to hatch a bunch of conspiracy theories around it. They shouldn’t do that,” Seth Harris, who served as acting Labor Secretary under President Barack Obama, told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield on Saturday.
“I don’t think the folks at BLS are trying to cook the books or make President Trump look good. They’re career professionals. They take their craft very seriously. They’re trying to do the best they possibly can in a very complicated situation,” he added.
He commended the BLS for being “transparent” about the error, saying it was the “right way to respond.”
The US Census Bureau employees collects demographic data on workers that goes into the BLS report, calling around 70,000 households a month.
Harris told CNN on Saturday that he believes the mistake likely arose from BLS not providing the interviewers, who classify the workers during the survey process, with “clear enough guidance.”
A White House official pushed back Saturday on suggestions that the May jobs report is any less encouraging due to the inclusion of a “misclassification error.”
The official noted the error has appeared in previous reports, and said that even after correcting for the error, the drop in unemployment from April to May remains significant.
“It’s only now with the release of a positive jobs report that these critics emerge,” the official argued.
Business shutdowns and closures due to the coronavirus have led to historic job losses. The US is now in the process of gradually reopening, allowing new jobs to be added to the economy.
The BLS also noted in its May jobs report that response rates to its surveys have been lower than usual during the pandemic, a factor that could lead to bigger revisions in the future.
CNN’s Annalyn Kurtz, Anneken Tappe, Sarah Westwood and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.