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

Scott Malone and Lucia Mutikani

* 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 anyone

of anything"

BOSTON/WASHINGTON, Oct 5 (Reuters) - BOSTON/WASHINGTON,

Oct 5 (Reuters) - Jack Welch, the former chairman of General

Electric Co, provoked cries of outrage in Washington on

Friday when he suggested that the White House manipulated

September job figures for political gains.

White House officials dismissed as "ludicrous" a tweet Welch

sent to his more than 1.3 million followers that gave the

impression President Barack Obama's administration may have

rigged the data as a way of recovering from a poor showing at

Wednesday night's debate with Mitt Romney, his Republican

challenger for the White House.

"Unbelievable jobs numbersthese Chicago guys will do

anythingcan't debate so change numbers," Welch said in a

posting on Twitter. Obama formerly served as a senator from

Illinois.

The tweet was repeated more than 2,000 times, with many

mocking posts comparing Welch to New York real estate tycoon

Donald Trump, who during his failed bid for the presidency

loudly argued that Obama was not born in the United States, and

Clint Eastwood, who gave a widely panned speech at the

Republican National Convention in August.

Welch, who with his wife, Suzy Welch, writes a column for

Reuters, said he is not "accusing anyone of anything." But he

stood 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 the

Labor Department report - which showed unemployment falling to a

near four-year low of 7.8 percent - could be rigged.

"That's a ludicrous comment. No serious person believes that

the Bureau of Labor Statistics manipulates its statistics," said

Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic

Advisers. "The jobs report and all of their other statistics are

prepared by career employees. They use the same process every

month. They use the same process for Republican and Democratic

administrations."

Later on MSBNC, Welch told host Chris Matthews: "I have no

evidence to prove (the BLS numbers were manipulated). I just

raised the question." But he said: "You don't think it's

coincidental 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 Obama

on his Twitter feed, where he has regularly spoken out in favor

of Romney. During the presidential debate in Denver, Colorado,

on Wednesday night, Welch tweeted: "HOW can anyone vote for

Obama after this performancehe has demonstrated his

incompetence."

"This guy is the guy that's telling me the books are

cooked? That's hilarious," said Barry Ritholtz, CEO and director

of equity research at Fusion IQ in New York, which manages about

$300 million in assets. Ritholtz, one of the first to respond to

Welch's tweet, was referring to the allegation that during his

tenure at GE, Welch sometimes used the GE Capital finance unit

to sell quickly assets such as real estate and ensure that the

largest U.S. conglomerate regularly beat Wall Street profit

estimates.

Other tweets agreed with Welch's assertion.

"In regards to today's jobs report---I agree with former GE

CEO Jack Welch, Chicago style politics is at work here," said

Florida Representative Allen West, a Republican, on Twitter.

BLS DEFENDS METHODS

Officials with the Bureau of Labor Statistics defended their

methods and findings, noting they are compiled by career civil

servants, not political appointees.

"We have done a monthly survey since 1940 and the methods

have broadly not changed," said Karen Kosanovich, an economist

with the bureau. "Fiddling with the numbers, I don't know how

that 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 of

more than a dozen companies in different industries this week

and none were stronger in the third quarter than they were in

the second.

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