AP Reports Very Good Jobs News, Then Gets In Its Obligatory Digs

February 3rd, 2006 1:58 PM

There is seemingly no business-news lemonade that The Associated Press won't try to spin into lemons.

Today's un-bylined story on new jobs and unemployment was heavily biased, even by the "standards" of The AP, which seems to have totally lost its ability to report a business news story straight. Three of the last five paragraphs excerpted read like a Democratic National Committee (DNC) press release (the Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS] announcement is here; bolds are mine):

WASHINGTON (AP) — Employers stepped up hiring in January, boosting payrolls by 193,000 and lowering the nation's unemployment rate to 4.7 percent, the lowest since July 2001.

..... Although the 193,000 gain in payroll jobs in January fell short of the 250,000 new jobs that economists said to anticipate before the release of the report, it still marked a sturdy showing and was the biggest increase in jobs since November.

Moreover, job growth in December turned out to be stronger than previously thought. Revised figures showed payrolls expanded by 140,000 — an improvement over the 108,000 new jobs first estimated a month ago. Employment was revised up for some previous months as well.

The unemployment rate dropped to 4.7 percent in January, from 4.9 percent in December.


(Now to the DNC press release language) Despite good news on some economic matters, Americans still feel anxious about the economy, polls indicate.

President Bush, coping with relatively low job-approval ratings, is seeking to ease those fears. In his State of the Union address as well as subsequent speeches Bush has been talking about ways to make the country more competitive and is pushing plans to deal with pocketbooks issues, such as high energy prices and rising health care costs.

Bush also is calling on Congress to make his tax cuts permanent. Democrats, however, contend the tax cuts mostly helped the wealthy and are a big reason why the government's balance sheets are bleeding red ink.

(AP returns to reporting facts.) Employees' average hourly earnings climbed to $16.41 in January, up 0.4 percent from December. That increase was slightly larger than the 0.3 percent rise that economists were expecting.

(AP then creates one more reason to worry.) While wage growth is good for workers, a big pickup if sustained — would be troubling to investors and economists who fret about inflation......

This is all so typical:
  • It would have been nice to tell us the effect of all upward revisions, or to have given us some indication of the bigger picture. It wouldn't have been that difficult, and wasn't (see the Update below).
  • They just won't let us forget that we're "anxious," and that Bush has "relatively low approval ratings," will they? Of course -- You guys are telling us that all the time, even in what was supposed to be a give-it-to-me-straight story on jobs and employment!
  • Finally, leave it to AP, which has carried numerous reports about flat wages, etc. over the past few years, to react to rising wages as a inflation-stoker over a 0.1% difference from expectations.
The data was released at 8:30 AM Eastern Time. The AP link is as of 8:37. Who doubts that the job-approval and tax-cut paragraphs were drafted ahead of time and planned for inclusion regardless of what the BLS new release was going to say?


UPDATE: For the truth about jobs created in the past three months, go to this link at the BLS. Next, in the very first row ("Total non-farm"), put a checkmark in the "Seasonally Adjusted" column. Then scroll all the way down to the very bottom left of the page, and click on the "Retrieve Data" dialog box. You will see that:

  • The January 2006 total employment figure, the basis for reporting the 193,000 increase, is 134,564,000.
  • October 2005's revised figure was 133,877,000.
  • The economy added an impressive 687,000 jobs in the past three months (by subtracting October from January). That's an average of 229,000 per month.

"Somehow," AP missed that.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.