Bad News for Liberals? ABC Can Barely Speak of 50-Year Low in Unemployment

May 4th, 2019 8:05 AM

The news was shocking on Friday morning when the Labor Department reported the economy added 263,000 new jobs -- higher than expected -- lowering the unemployment rate to 3.6 percent, the lowest in fifty years. Would the networks acknowledge this news, or try to dodge it like last Friday's surprisingly strong 3.2 percent growth in GDP? ABC and CBS skipped that, and NBC gave it ten seconds. This Friday, Curtis Houck noted on Twitter that CBS and NBC had full reports on Friday night, but ABC's World News Tonight was done with it in 18 seconds. 

DAVID MUIR: A major headline about the American economy for you tonight. The U.S. adding 263,000 jobs in April, far more than expected. Unemployment falling to 3.6 percent. That's the lowest level since 1969. The Dow responding,  jumping 197 points today, closing at 26,504. 

This "major headline" arrived halfway through the newscast, after heart-tugging stories on a newborn being dropped during delivery and a story on a family of four dying in Ohio from carbon monoxide poisoning...and a full Jon Karl story on Trump and Russia. 

NBC Nightly News offered a minute and 46 seconds, and Tom Costello stated that "for graduating seniors, the timing could not be better" and that the "tax cuts provided a shot in the arm." He also gave time to the fact that joblessness went down under Obama, too. 

On the CBS Evening News, they highlighted the strong economic numbers but also found a poll showing some Americans haven't felt that success. Reporter Mola Lenghi concluded with a Debbie Downer spin: “What goes up must come down, Jeff, and another recession is inevitable.”

The PBS NewsHour consigned the unemployment news to an anchor brief (with a Larry Kudlow soundbite), lasting about a minute.

Here's a surprise: NPR's All Things Considered led with the news. In a four-minute report, economics reporter Jim Zarroli called the unemployment rate "groovy" and brought on Obama economist Austan Goolsbee, who admitted it was a "nice, fat, juicy jobs number report." They also (unlike PBS) talked about it in the "Week in Review" chat.

The New York Times sounded sour on their site The Upshot:  

The Economy That Wasn’t Supposed to Happen: Booming Jobs, Low Inflation

Maybe using data from a few decades in the middle of the 20th century to set policy in the 21st isn’t such a good idea.

But Neil Irwin was conceding that the experts and their predictions got it all wrong. 

After more than two years of the Trump administration, warnings that trade wars and erratic management style would throw the economy off course have proved wrong so far, and tax cuts and deregulation are most likely part of the reason for the strong growth rates in 2018 and the beginning of 2019 (though most forecasts envision a slowing in the coming quarters as the impact of tax cuts fades).

In particular, it now appears that recession fears that emerged at the end of 2018 were misguided — especially once the Fed backed off its campaign of rate increases at the start of 2019.

But beyond the assigning of credit or blame, there’s a bigger lesson in the job market’s remarkably strong performance: about the limits of knowledge when it comes to something as complex as the $20 trillion U.S. economy.