Taranto Nails Recession Obsession of AP's Aversa
..... But Misses Chance to Refute "Jobs Slashed" Claims.
It's good to see that someone else is on the case of the recession-obsessed Associated Press, particularly reporter Jeannine Aversa. But even the estimable James Taranto, in his Best of the Web column yesterday, let Aversa's most obvious and repeated error go by without comment.
With any luck, the second half of this year will be better than the so-far rocky first half. The Federal Reserve chief hopes that is the case. So does President Bush.
For the rest of us mere mortals, it feels like the pain is getting worse.
When the economy begins to snap out of its funk, how will we know?
..... as we've noted in the past, "mere mortal" Aversa was more certain when declaring there was a recession:
- February: "In a shower of pink slips, U.S. employers cut jobs last month for the first time in more than four years, the starkest signal yet that the economy is grinding to a halt if it hasn't already toppled into recession."
- March: "Dangerous cracks in the nation's job market are deepening. Employers slashed jobs by the largest amount in five years and hundreds of thousands of people dropped out of the labor force--ominous signs that the country is falling toward a recession or has already toppled into one."
- April: "It's no longer a question of recession or not. Now it's how deep and how long."
He then went on to note that Aversa acknowledged the uncertainties involved in declaring a recession in late paragraphs in one of her reports. But despite that acknowledgment:
..... she was willing to disregard the uncertainty principle and declare a recession.
So, how will the AP's readers know when the economy revives? One predictor may be the presence of a cat from Illinois in the White House.
Taranto's critique is great, as far as it goes. But somebody, and that will have to be me for now, will have to keep beating on the "pink slips" and "slashed jobs" myth, because Taranto didn't.
Once again: The job-change numbers that are announced every month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are seasonally adjusted. Seasonally adjusting employment data is useful and necessary, but it doesn't reflect the actual changes in the number of people employed in any given individual month. In reality, employment went up in February, March, and April, as it typically does -- just not by as much as it has in recent years:
(Source - Bureau of Labor Statistics; go to this BLS link and select "Total nonfarm - Not seasonally adjusted.")
The above is not good news, and I'm not pretending that it is. But that doesn't change the fact that the verbiage routinely employed by Aversa and others in the business press describing "showers of pink slips" and "employers slashing jobs" has been demonstrably false for at least three consecutive months. Show me the bodies thrown out on the streets, Jeannine; the fact is, you can't.
Even in months like January, which typically shows a big reduction in employment (and, unfortunately, a bigger one this year than in the previous couple of years), there's a difference between people returning home after seasonal work, retiring, or just moving on to something else, and "employers slashing jobs." Someone making claims such as these should be backing them up, and I'm not seeing that. All I'm seeing is lazy negativity.
Taranto, who did very well nuking Aversa's recession obsession, had a chance to go further and missed it. Given Aversa's aversion to economic positivity, there's little doubt he'll have other opportunities.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.