The Federal Reserve reported Thursday that April industrial production fell, the second negative reading in the past three months. Specifically, February and April fell by 0.7%, and March showed an increase of 0.2%.
In May 2001, that same report showed that production fell for the seventh consecutive month.
Seasonally adjusted data from the Fed indicates that industrial production during those seven months (October 2000 through April 2001) fell 2.6%.
During the past seven months (October 2007 through April 2008), industrial production has fallen 1.7%.
Guess which set of circumstances generated more talk of recession?
How do you write an article about Uncle Sam's April financial results without telling readers how much money came in and went out -- especially if what came in was an all-time record?
Yesterday and today, many journalists have shown us how. Two of them are Martin Crutsinger of the Associated Press and Michael M. Phillips of the Wall Street Journal.
Crutsinger's AP report actually made it appear as if collections is the problem area. In fact, as you will eventually see after the jump, April's result had nothing to do with "dampening" revenue growth, and everything to do with exploding spending.
Crutsinger began as follows:
The Associated Press's business writers just won't let go of their claim (or is it audacious hope?) that we are in a recession -- not heading towards one, but actually in one.
Worker productivity rose by a better-than-expected amount in the first three months of the year while labor cost pressures eased.
The Labor Department reported Wednesday that productivity, the amount of output per hour of work, increased at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the first quarter. That was slightly higher than the 1.5 percent increase that had been expected.
Those of us, including myself, who thought that the supply-side boom in federal receipts had totally played out, as well as those who are concerned about the condition of the economy, have received a surprising bit of good news this month.
Old Media, which doesn't seem interested in looking for, let alone finding, good news, is not reporting a very interesting development. With two business days remaining in April, Uncle Sam's Daily Treasury Statement shows that federal receipts from income and employment taxes, before refunds, are actually ahead of all of April 2007:
At OpinionJournal.com on Thursday ("Fair but Unbalanced -- How the media promote false pessimism about the economy"), Brian Wesbury, who has written several times on the disconnect between the strong economy and the public's perception of it (previous references here, here, here, here, and here), had another generally stellar column about what is nonetheless a relatively small piece of the problem.
Wesbury ascribes much of the disconnect to TV's need for "balance," when giving positive and negative views equal weight is often in reality unbalanced:
If one guest or expert is a "bull," then the other must be a "bear," to keep things fair. Or, if there is a single guest on air, the host often takes the other side of the issue in order to keep things balanced. Get some sparks between guests, a little argument here or there, and it's even better for the ratings. The bigger the audience, the better the show, that's the way the advertisers see it. It's basic supply and demand.
But this idea of presenting both sides of an issue, while entertaining, informative and seemingly balanced, may paradoxically create a warped perspective of the economy.