WASHINGTON - The Labor Department yesterday flatly denied charges made in a New York Post article that economic data was padded to improve the economy's appearance just before the Presidential election.

Another Labor Department official, who wished anonymity, yesterday also denied the charges, but added that the department is investigating the matter.

In a letter to the editor of the New York Post, William G. Barron Jr., deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said, the "allegation in the Nov. 5 Post that the September unemployment figures were 'purposely tampered with' is totally and categorically false."

The methods used to calculate and interpret the unemployment data "do not vary from month to month," Barron contended. "The unemployment figures for September were calculated the same way they always are."

The charges surfaced yesterday in a front page column that reported that the Labor Department's employment numbers were "wildly inaccurate" and "have been purposely altered for political reasons." John Crudele, writer of the column, quoted a "reliable source" for the information.

Barron said that apparently Crudele did not contact Labor Department officials to investigate the story. "If he had, he would have learned that no one outside of the statistical agency [including the President] sees the results before they go to print," Barron said.

"We take an accusation like that very seriously," said the Labor official, who wished for anonymity. "There's no truth to this."

Lou Colasuonno, editor of the New York Post, said, "I stand by our story 100%. John Crudele has been looking at the numbers for a long time. We think the story is sound."

"We don't think this is the first administration to do this," he said. "It is interesting that the bureau is now checking out its figures on the, heels of our report."

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