Wires

UPDATE 1-Jack Welch sets Twitter ablaze with Obama job jab

* Welch suggests data an attempt to recover from debate

* White House slams Welch tweet as "ludicrous"

* Welch stands by his words but says he "not accusing anyoneof anything"

(Adds comments from Welch) By Scott Malone and Lucia Mutikani

BOSTON/WASHINGTON, Oct 5 (Reuters) - BOSTON/WASHINGTON,Oct 5 (Reuters) - Jack Welch, the former chairman of GeneralElectric Co , provoked cries of outrage in Washington onFriday when he suggested that the White House manipulatedSeptember job figures for political gains.

White House officials dismissed as "ludicrous" a tweet Welchsent to his more than 1.3 million followers that gave theimpression President Barack Obama's administration may haverigged the data as a way of recovering from a poor showing atWednesday night's debate with Mitt Romney, his Republicanchallenger for the White House.

"Unbelievable jobs numbers�these Chicago guys will doanything�can't debate so change numbers," Welch said in aposting on Twitter. Obama formerly served as a senator fromIllinois.

The tweet was repeated more than 2,000 times, with manymocking posts comparing Welch to New York real estate tycoonDonald Trump, who during his failed bid for the presidencyloudly argued that Obama was not born in the United States, andClint Eastwood, who gave a widely panned speech at theRepublican National Convention in August.

Welch, who with his wife, Suzy Welch, writes a column forReuters, said he is not "accusing anyone of anything." But hestood by his tweet.

"These numbers just don't go with the economic activity."Welch said. "You draw your own conclusions."

Officials in Washington quickly dismissed the idea that theLabor Department report - which showed unemployment falling to anear four-year low of 7.8 percent - could be rigged.

"That's a ludicrous comment. No serious person believes thatthe Bureau of Labor Statistics manipulates its statistics," saidAlan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of EconomicAdvisers. "The jobs report and all of their other statistics areprepared by career employees. They use the same process everymonth. They use the same process for Republican and Democraticadministrations."

Later on MSBNC, Welch told host Chris Matthews: "I have noevidence to prove (the BLS numbers were manipulated). I justraised the question." But he said: "You don't think it'scoincidental that we've had the biggest job surge since 1983?These numbers defy logic."

The tweet was by no means Welch's first criticism of Obamaon his Twitter feed, where he has regularly spoken out in favorof Romney. During the presidential debate in Denver, Colorado,on Wednesday night, Welch tweeted: "HOW can anyone vote forObama after this performance�he has demonstrated hisincompetence."

"This guy is the guy that's telling me the books arecooked? That's hilarious," said Barry Ritholtz, CEO and directorof equity research at Fusion IQ in New York, which manages about$300 million in assets. Ritholtz, one of the first to respond toWelch's tweet, was referring to the allegation that during histenure at GE, Welch sometimes used the GE Capital finance unitto sell quickly assets such as real estate and ensure that thelargest U.S. conglomerate regularly beat Wall Street profitestimates.

Other tweets agreed with Welch's assertion.

"In regards to today's jobs report---I agree with former GECEO Jack Welch, Chicago style politics is at work here," saidFlorida Representative Allen West, a Republican, on Twitter.

BLS DEFENDS METHODS

Officials with the Bureau of Labor Statistics defended theirmethods and findings, noting they are compiled by career civilservants, not political appointees.

"We have done a monthly survey since 1940 and the methodshave broadly not changed," said Karen Kosanovich, an economistwith the bureau. "Fiddling with the numbers, I don't know howthat would be possible."

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told CNBC that she was"insulted" by the remark.

As for Welch, 76, he says he went through reviews ofmore than a dozen companies in different industries this weekand none were stronger in the third quarter than they were inthe second.

"You can't just call me old and senile," he said.

(Additional reporting by Aaron Pressman. Editing by AndreGrenon and Ciro Scotti)

((scott.malone@thomsonreuters.com)(+1 617 856 4342)(ReutersMessaging: scott.malone.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: USA ECONOMY/JACKWELCH