Media Spin Abounds Over Last Friday's Employment Report


On Friday, Uncle Sam's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the nation's unemployment rate rose to a seasonally adjusted 9.7% in August, and that the economy lost another 216,000 seasonally adjusted jobs.

In various ways, the press tried to put a happy face on the news and otherwise tried to minimize its impact. It also continued, as it has for years, to ignore what really happened on the ground (i.e., the not seasonally adjusted numbers) during the month; in August, a look at that info punctures any illusion that the employment situation is improving. It also ignored prior-month downward revisions to both June and July totaling 49,000 seasonally adjusted jobs.

Here are the first four paragraphs of the Friday report by Christopher S. Rugaber at the Associated Press:


In Rugaber's defense, if his "not all bad" reference red-boxed by me is to the economy as a whole, he's correct.

Two paragraphs later in his report, he writes that "many analysts say the economy should grow by a healthy 3 to 4 percent in the third quarter, pulling the United States out of the longest recession since World War II." That would indeed be welcome news after four dreadful quarters brought on by what I have been referring to since July of last year as the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy, which has turned during the past four quarters into the POR Recession (radio talker Mark Levin would prefer to use the term "repression") As Normal People Define It. In addition to a person Rugaber cited, I found some corroboration for the contention that growth will resume at this link at the Philadelphia branch of the Federal Reserve, where in mid-August "professional forecasters" predicted third-quarter annualized growth of 2.4%.

But if Rugaber or anyone else thinks that the employment situation is "not all bad," they are sadly mistaken. That's because, despite the lower seasonally adjusted job-loss number, what actually happened on the ground in August (i.e., not seasonally adjusted) went the wrong way for the 22nd consecutive month, and to an increasing degree:


After narrowing the year-over-year decay to 42,000 in July, August 2009's on the ground number was worse by 131,000. Also, August's report revised July's figure downward by 110,000 jobs; what had appeared last month to be the first year-over-year improvement vaporized. The last time there was a year-over-year improvement in the not seasonally adjusted jobs added/lost figure was October 2007. Meanwhile, at the New York Times, Peter S. Goodman and Jack Healy were rewriting history, trying to convince readers that the expected recovery will be jobless, as it was during the last downturn:
Many experts envision a jobless recovery, in which the economy grows but job losses persist. That would reprise the end of the last recession in 2001, when payrolls continued to decline for nearly two years afterward.
Sorry, Peter and Jack, payrolls did not "continue to decline" during the entire period in question.


As seen above, there was a net decline in seasonally adjusted jobs from December 2001, the first month after the recession as the National Bureau of Economic Research defined it ended, until August 2003, 21 months later. But five of those months showed gains, October and November 2002 showed consecutive gains (it's pretty hard to claim something "continued" if it had a break of two full months), and the final four of the 21 months had a net loss of only 25,000 jobs. During every month of the past year (September 2008 - August 2009), including the past two months which we are now being told is part of a recovery, that many seasonally adjusted jobs have been lost every 3-4 days.

After the 21-month period Goodman and Healy cited, the Bush tax cut-driven economy added jobs for 46 consecutive months, the longest job-adding winning streak since the Reagan tax cut-driven economy added jobs for 82 consecutive months (September 1983 to June 1990).

If Goodman and Healy are going to persist in call that 2001-2003 time period a "jobless recovery," I would hope that they call one where jobs are consistently lost in monthly six-figure amounts a "job-loss recovery." But I don't expect it.

Cross-posted at

Economy Unemployment Media Bias Debate Business Coverage Recession Major Newspapers New York Times Wire Services/Media Companies Associated Press

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