The Associated Press's Jeannine Aversa really should change her writing focus, because economics is clearly not her specialty.
After telling readers in March that "Dangerous cracks in the nation's job market" are "ominous signs that the country is falling toward a recession or has already toppled into one," Aversa had the gall to report Wednesday, "The bruised economy limped through the first quarter of this year at a six-tenths of a percentage point growth rate as housing and credit problems forced people and businesses alike to hunker down."
Are you joking? You, your wire service, and virtually every media outlet in the nation have been telling Americans that we're already in a recession. A government report comes out saying that we're not, and this is how you begin your article covering the surprising announcement?
How disgraceful. Sadly, that was just the beginning (emphasis added, h/t NB reader PunditDotCom):
The country's economic growth during January through March was the same as in the final three months of last year, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday — but not the kind of statistic that economists define as a recession. Although the economy is stuck in a rut, it is still managing to keep growing — however slightly.
Rather than being contrite, Aversa seems disappointed, don't you agree?
As this is the first report from the AP, it will be interesting to see how lengthier editions later in the day, as well as tonight's network news broadcasts and tomorrow's print media, will cover this surprising announcement.
For example, at least Reuters had the decency to put the good news in the headline and opening paragraph:
First-quarter growth stronger than forecast
Wed Apr 30, 2008 9:35am EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The economy grew at a slightly stronger pace than forecast as 2008 began, helped by inventory-building that tempered a steadily deteriorating housing sector and less vigorous consumer spending.
So did Bloomberg News:
U.S. Economy Expanded at 0.6% Pace in First Quarter (Update1)
By Shobhana Chandra
April 30 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. economy expanded at a 0.6 percent annual pace in the first quarter as an increase in inventories compensated for weaker consumer spending and a drop in business investment.
The gain in gross domestic product, the sum of all goods and services produced, was more than forecast and matched the rate of growth in the previous three months, the Commerce Department reported today in Washington. The last time the economy grew less was in the fourth quarter of 2002.
Will media report this as good news, and admit that we're actually not in a recession yet?
And, will they even bother addressing the better-than-expected Chicago Purchasing Managers number (emphasis added):
4/30/2008 9:48:56 AM The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index for April unexpectedly rose to 48.3 in April from 48.2 in March, according to a report released Wednesday morning.
Hmmm. Two better-than-expected reports. Media should cheer, right?
Don't hold your breath.
BTW: Jeannine Aversa isn't the only economics reporter at the AP that should consider changing focus. Take a look at how badly her colleague Joe Bel Bruno predicted these economic reports hours before they were released (emphasis added):
The Commerce Department is expected to report that the U.S. economy grew at an anemic annual rate of 0.3 percent in the first quarter, held back by the ongoing housing slump and declines in consumer and business spending.
In addition, the Chicago purchasing managers' index is expected to show more business contraction in the Midwest during April.
Nice job, AP. You really are the first place Americans should go for economic information...not!