AP's Crutsinger 'Clings to Recession' Despite Improving Data

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.

Despite yet another decent economic report, this one on productivity, the AP's Martin Crutsinger downplayed a significant beating of expectations, and continued to invoke the R-word (bolds are mine):

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.

Analysts read the bigger-than-expected rise in productivity and the smaller increase in unit labor costs as a good sign that inflation pressures, at least on the labor front, are remaining under control and the country is not facing the danger of a wage-price spiral.

..... Many analysts think the country has already toppled into a recession. But overall economic growth, as measured by the gross domestic product, eked out a tiny 0.6 percent rate of increase in the first three months of the year, the same anemic pace as the final three months of last year.

I did the math just to make sure -- 2.2% is 47% higher than 1.5%. Additionally, the 2.2% first-quarter performance was higher than the 1.8% reported for the fourth quarter of 2007, while expectations were that it would come in lower. "Slightly," schmightly, Martin.

Consider the other economic news of the past week that Crutsinger had to blow past with his assertion that "many (unnamed) analysts" think that the US has "already toppled into a recession":

  • The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Manufacturing Index released a week ago, covering about 15% of the economy -- contracting, but barely, and holding steady.
  • Last Friday's Employment report -- Unemployment rate down to 5.0%, seasonally adjusted job losses smaller than previous months.
  • ISM's Non-Manufacturing index, covering the remaining 85% of the economy, including the troubled housing and financial-services sectors -- Moved significantly into expansion mode in April, blowing away expectations that it would further slip into contraction.

Topping all of that, the ISM issued its Spring Semiannual Economic Forecast Tuesday. The press release for the report had these headlines:

ISMeconPredix0508

The weighted average of the expected 1% increase in manufacturing revenues and the 2.7% increase in non-manufacturing is about 2.4%. That's not spectacular growth by any stretch, but it's a far cry from negative growth.

Yet the AP's Crutsinger and his unnamed analysts continue to "cling to recession." Excuse me for believing that he, his business-reporting co-workers at AP, and their oft-unnamed agenda-driven "analysts" will continue their clinging until, oh, about early November.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.