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DNC chair Wasserman Schultz stumbles on Obama unemployment stat

Broward Rep. and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz sounded as if she flubbed an unemployment stat this morning during an exchange with Fox & Friends’ host Gretchen Carlson, who exaggerated somewhat by saying the “unemployment has gone up precipitously since he took office.”

When Wasserman Schultz tried to cut off Carlson, the congresswoman at one point denied that unemployment "has been going up" under Obama. But it has "gone up." True, the rate is going down now. True, the rate was increasing before he got in office. But the rate also increased while Obama was president.

It was a little slip up by Wasserman Schultz, who didn't repeat the error when pressed. But this is campaign season. Republicans have pounced. And little phrases matter. Just ask Wasserman Schultz, who said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was "out of touch" for offering a $10,000 bet to Republican Rick Perry at Saturday night's debate.

The “precipitously” comment by Carlson is debatable. The jobless rate was 8.2 percent in Obama’s first full month in office, February 2009. It is now 8.6 percent. In between, in October of 2009, it was 10.1 percent.

From trough to peak, that means the unemployment rate rose 1.9 percentage points (technically a 23 percentage increase) under Obama. But from where we stand now, the increase is .4 percentage points (a 5 percent swing). And the rate is decreasing (albeit thanks to the holidays, the contraction of the workforce and some improvement in the upper-reaches of the economy).

But Carlson might have been playing loose with the figures. In saying the unemployment rate increased “precipitously,” it sounded as if she was talking about the rate in the fall of 2009. But then, during the exchange, she said she was talking about “where the unemployment numbers are.” That’s the present tense. And, in the present, the unemployment rate has ticked up just .4 percent -- 5 percentage points --- under Obama.

Carlson: Unemployment has gone up precipitously since he took office.

Wasserman Schultz: That is simply not true

Carlson: Yes it is

Wasserman Schultz: In fact unemployment has dropped below 9 percent. It’s continuing to drop

Carlson: That’s higher than when they promised that the stimulus would lower to 8 percent

Wasserman Schultz: See, that narrative doesn’t work for you anymore, though, because when…

Carlson: That’s not my narrative. I’m just talking about facts, where the unemployment numbers are…

Wasserman Schultz: You just said that the unemployment rate has been going up since he took office and it hasn’t.

Carlson: Is unemployment higher now than when President Obama first took office?

Wasserman Schultz: What’s happened since President Obama first took office….

Carlson: Is unemployment higher?

Wasserman Schultz: Unemployment is nearing right around where it was when President Obama took office. And it’s dropping. You just said that it’s increasing and that’s not true.