All Three Networks Highlight Lower December Jobs Report

A weaker than expected jobs report managed to capture the attention of the three broadcast networks evening newscasts. That was quite a switch.Those same news programs often underreported good economic news in the past year. ABC World News skipped reporting the jobs report four times in 2017.

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Jan. 5, that 148,000 jobs were added in December, the unemployment rate remained at the 17-year-low of 4.1 percent and wages grew by 2.5 percent.

The job market remains “very healthy,” according to economists, in spite of a fewer than expected job gains in December.

ABC, CBS and NBC evening news broadcasts all covered the December data, but none bothered to dig deep. World News Tonight with David Muir noted that “fewer” jobs were added than expected in the 20 second report about the state of American employment. Surprisingly, that was more than CBS Evening News with Jeff Glor (11 seconds) or NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (17 seconds) the same night.

Each anchor rattled off the new data, without citing any economists or perspective on what the numbers mean for Americans.

Holt followed up the jobs report with a story about how President Donald Trump’s administration ended an Obama policy protecting marijuana sales. NBC warned it could hurt California boomtowns trying to cash in on cannabis.

Twenty seconds wasn’t enough to help World News regain much ground. It remained dead last in the total amount of jobs coverage on jobs Friday nights since Feb. 3, 2017 (January 2017 jobs report) with just 4 minutes and 15 seconds of coverage.

Evening News more than doubled it with 8 minutes 54 seconds. Nightly News had slightly less than twice ABC’s coverage with 8 minutes 23 seconds.

While expectations for December job growth had been around 190,000, economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal weren’t worried by the lower numbers.

“There’s no cause for alarm. Monthly payroll growth of 148,000 is still twice what we need to keep up with sluggish working-age population growth: the labor market still has plenty of momentum.” Indeed’s Jed Kolko told the Journal.

Other economists made similar remarks including calling the job market “very healthy,” and viewing the slightly weaker report as “noise rather than a shift in the trend,” given strong private sector payroll surveys.

Navy Federal Credit Union’s Robert Frick said that based on manufacturing strength and other factors “the expansion has plenty of life.”

Methodology: MRC Business has been counting the amount of time spend on jobs or employment news on the Friday of each month that the Commerce Department announces the latest data. This time tally only reflects the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news broadcasts on those specific nights.

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Economy Unemployment ABC World News Tonight CBS CBS Evening News NBC NBC Nightly News Wall Street Journal
Julia A. Seymour's picture