AP's Initial Take Miscasts Less Gloomy Consumer Confidence Report

The Associated Press's opening four-paragraph unbylined take (also saved here) on the Conference Board's July consumer confidence report comes off to yours truly as a desperate attempt to play "Happy Days Are Here Again" with selective reporting.

Start with the item's headline: "US consumers more confident in the economy in July" Uh, no. Given that a value of 90 is what the AP acknowledges in a later paragraph "indicates a healthy economy," today's overall reading of 65.9, up from 62.7 in June, means that consumers are less gloomy or less downbeat. Confident? Hardly. AP even got the report's underlying indicators wrong:

U.S. consumer confidence rose in July after four months of declines, as a brighter outlook for short-term hiring offset longer-term worries about the economy.

Concerning employment, the Conference Board reported that "Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead increased to 17.6 percent from 14.8 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs edged down to 20.3 percent from 20.8 percent." Again, guys, "not as awful," not "brighter."

In current metrics, AP clearly cherry-picked. Yes, the short-term hiring outlook improved a bit, but, quoting from the Board's report:

  • Contradictory -- "The Present Situation Index, however, decreased slightly to 46.2 from 46.6 a month ago."
  • Inconclusive -- "Those claiming business conditions are "good" declined to 13.8 percent from 14.2 percent, while those saying business conditions are "bad" decreased to 34.2 percent from 35.9 percent."
  • Inconclusive -- "Those stating jobs are “hard to get" declined to 40.8 percent from 41.2 percent, while those claiming jobs are "plentiful" decreased to 7.8 percent from 8.3 percent."

As to expectations, the Board said that its "Expectations Index improved to 79.1 from 73.4" without breaking out short-term from long-term. Concerning the short-term, it wrote that "The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months rose to 18.9 percent from 16.0 percent, while those anticipating business conditions will worsen decreased to 14.6 percent from 15.8 percent."

Those are only marginal short-term improvements, meaning that the rest of the improvements must have been long-term in nature. It's hard to know for sure without seeing the subscribers-only full report, but what the Board did tell the public would seem to contradict AP's implication that there was minimal or even downward movement in "longer-term worries about the economy."

All in all, another routine exercise in miscasting economic news by the Administration's Press.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

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