It wouldn't quite be fair to say that the Associated Press's Christopher Rugaber sugarcoated his dispatch on today's release of the April Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) by Uncle Sam's Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it would be more than fair to say he missed several chances to tell readers how significant the setbacks BLS relayed really were (openings fell 8.7% from a seasonally adjusted 3.741 million to 3.416 million). That's especially true, given what we already know about May's employment situation.
What follows are several paragraphs from Rugaber's report, followed by contextual factoids the folks at Zero Hedge found which the AP reporter missed or ignored:
Sometimes it takes a bit of exertion to disprove an assertion made by an establishment press reporter. Not this time. Today's Department of Labor report on initial unemployment claims told us that such filings "unexpectedly" (as relayed by Reuters and Bloomberg) rose to 386,000 from an upwardly revised (of course) 380,000 the previous week; expectations were for a fall to 375,000. About an hour after DOL's release, Christopher Rugaber at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, told readers that "Applications fell steadily during the fall and winter but have since leveled off."
Well, this one can be taken care of in one easy chart. It starts with what was essentially the last week of winter (the week ended March 24) and goes through the week ended June 9 covered in today's release, with an extra 3,000 added to the most current week to reflect next week's likely upward adjusted (such adjustments during the past sixty-plus weeks have averaged about 3,900).
Last week, what the Department of Labor had originally reported as a dip in new unemployment claims the previous week (from 368,000 to 367,000) was revised into an increase (to 370,000). This week, what DOL originally reported was a no-change situation (i.e., 370,000) was revised into an increase (to 372,000).
It's getting ever more difficult to accept DOL's ongoing underestimations, which now run to 60 of the 61 most recent weeks I've been able to track (the one exception was a "no change" situation during the week ended June 18, 2011). In covering today's charade, Reuters, Bloomberg, and the Associated Press (aka the Administration's Press), all failed to note that this week's revision to last week turned last week into an increase instead of a no-change. In what should be seen as only a marginal improvement, two of the three (the AP, predictably, was the exception), headlined this week's small initial reduction from last week -- which seems destined to disappear after revision next week -- as "essentially unchanged." Excerpts follow the jump.
On Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. ET, the Commerce Department reported that seasonally adjusted U.S. retail sales in April rose by 0.1%. In an 11:12 a.m. report via the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, carried at the Detroit News ("U.S. consumers hold back retail sales, even as gas prices fall"), Martin Crutsinger was appropriately not impressed: "Lower gas prices in April weren't enough to embolden U.S. consumers to spend much more elsewhere. The Commerce Department said retail sales rose only 0.1 percent last month."
Look how things changed in a late afternoon AP report currently carried at its national site co-authored by Crutsinger and Christopher Rugaber, reworked in time to go into most newspapers' print editions Wednesday morning:
As has been so typical in analogous instances for the year or so I have been following the weekly claims numbers closely, the Associated Press (aka the Administration's Press), Reuters, and Bloomberg headlined a "dip," a "fall," and a "drop" in filings for initial claims, even though the dip-fall-drop from 368,000 to 367,000 only occurred because last week's figure was revised up from 365,000. If this week's figure is revised up by 1,000 or more (based on the past 60 weeks, there's at least a 95% chance of that), the dip-fall-drop will be gone-gone-gone. The AP's Paul Wiseman produced the howler of the morning in the last of the five excerpted paragraphs which follow (bolds are mine):
It is more than a little odd that each of the three wire services identified in today's earlier post (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), in reporting on yesterday's OMG-awful jobs report, somehow failed to mention something about the data presented. Specifically, at Bloomberg, Reuters, and the Associated Press (here and here), five reporters in four stories somehow avoided using two truly required words in describing the data contained in many if not most government economic data releases: "seasonally adjusted."
One is in an odd omission. A pair of such reports is a strange coincidence. The presence of four from three separate sources makes you wonder, especially since all three wire services found room for the two magic words (Bloomberg, though cryptically; Reuters; AP) in dispatches about Uncle Sam's report on initial unemployment claims the previous day. A look at how dismal the not seasonally adjusted numbers were in April follows the jump, and shows how, bad as they turned out to be, the Obama administration caught a lucky break in the seasonal adjustment calculations. It may also explain why the wire services avoided mentioning it.
To the extent that it was there at all, there was far too little emphasis in yesterday's wire service reporting on yesterday's OMG-awful jobs report (worse than most believe, as will be shown in a later post) was far less on those who continue to be affected -- like, say, the unemployed, under-employed and discouraged, who should be the object of such news stories -- and far too much concentration on what it might mean for President Obama's reelection prospects.
This was noticeable yesterday at Bloomberg, Reuters, and of course at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press. Excerpts follow the jump (bolds are mine).
At Bloomberg Business Week, the distortion of what the Social Security system's trustees told the public on Monday began with its headline and opening sentence.
The headline: "Social Security Fund to Run Out in '35: Trustees." Any reader would assume that the reference is to the situation with the retirement and disability programs combined, as both are collectively referred to as "Social Security." Reporter Brian Faler doubled down on the headline error in his opening sentence:
After reading Derek Kravitz's final report of the day at 4:45 p.m. on the housing market at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, I just had to check the other wires to see if they were sipping from the same housing-market-in-recovery koolaid.
The answer is no. At Reuters, Jason Lange's 3:22 p.m. dispatch reported that "Output at U.S. factories slipped in March and builders started construction on fewer homes, offering cautionary signals for an economy that appeared to be gaining traction." At Bloomberg, Timothy R. Homan wrote: "While warmer weather may have spurred home construction at the beginning of 2012, a competing supply of cheap existing properties may be steering potential buyers away from purchasing a new home. That means home construction may not help boost the economy in 2012." Both of these assessments make Kravitz's take on housing, which included omitting very negative data on housing starts, seem that much more bizarre (my comments in italics follow each paragraph):
Derek Kravitz and Alex Veiga at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, must have doubled down on the energy drinks over the weekend. A Sunday morning report (HT to a NewsBusters tipster) telling readers that signs are "pointing to a long-awaited recovery" in the housing market went on, and on, and on, and on for over 1,350 words.
The factors the AP pair cited were primarily these: "Hiring has strengthened," "Loans remain cheap," "Homes are more affordable," and "Americans are more confident." They should have known that their first point has become questionable with March's mediocre jobs report and the recent spike in weekly initial unemployment claims to 380,000 (which so happens to be above his colleague Christopher Rugaber's already too-high benchmark for job-market improvement of 375,000), and that their last point should read: "Americans are less un-confident."
On Tuesday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted how the Associated Press's headlined assessments at Anne D'Innocenzio's reports throughout the day on the Conference Board's monthly consumer confidence survey went from "falls" to "dips slightly" to "roughly flat" before ending up at "rosy" -- an evaluation the AP reporter also included in the verbiage of her final dispatch. For the record, the confidence measurement fell to 70.2 in March from 71.6 in February. Bloomberg's final report for the day also obfuscated, with a headline of "Consumer Confidence in U.S. Holds Close to One-Year High" and an opening sentence which read: "Confidence among U.S. consumers in March held close to the highest level in a year, underpinned by an improving labor market" -- anything to keep any indication of drop out of what most people would see. Along the same lines, Rush Limbaugh also picked on Reuters Tuesday for saying that confidence only "eased."
The University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Survey came out today. The press release's opening sentence: "Consumer confidence edged upward as more favorable income and job trends offset rising gas prices." Its value (with a different scale) went from 75.3 to 76.2. That's also "roughly" flat, isn't it? Don't be silly. All three wires said that an increase smaller than Tuesday's Conference Board decrease was an unqualified "rise."
From what I can tell, no one in the establishment press yesterday attempted to quantify the total employment impact of yesterday's announcement by Best Buy that it will reduce its headquarters headcount by 400 and close 50 stores. One thing is certain: It's not just 400, as the headlines and verbiage in certain media reports might lead readers to believe -- and it's not excusable to say that the company itself didn't name a specific number of employees affected by the store closures.
An estimate of how many jobs will really be lost is after the jump, followed by a few misleading media examples. Note that the media review is based on reports from Thursday; today, we began learning which stores will be closing. They include five in the Twin Cities area where the company is headquartered.
Earlier this year, a reporter informed me of what is apparently a common belief in the business press, namely that "the Labor Department considers the (seasonally adjusted, or SA) numbers to be much more reflective of what’s actually going on in the economy" than the raw (i.e., not seasonally adjusted, or NSA) economic data. That's interesting, given that you can't even do seasonal adjustments without the raw data, but I digress. That expressed and almost blind belief in SA numbers explains why virtually no one in the press bothers to look at, let alone report, the NSA numbers.
But given this "seasoned" faith, why didn't the business press tell readers that today's revisions to SA figures for initial unemployment claims going back to 2007 released today by the Department of Labor increased the originally reported amounts for the past four weeks by an average of almost 4%? That's indeed what happened, and it hardly seems minor. Instead, Bloomberg, Reuters, and the Associated Press all celebrated today's number (359,000) as the lowest in four years -- which it will no longer be if it gets revised upward next week by 2,000 or more next week (the average seen during the past year has been a bit below 4,000). The specific changes are after the jump, followed by a rundown of the three wire services' coverage.
An item filed at the Hill on Friday afternoon by Peter Schroeder tells us that Bloomberg News was the first organization to report the latest development relating to former New Jersey Democratic Governor and Senator Jon Corzine. Bloomberg's report, via Phil Mattingly and Silla Brush, reveals that Corzine, who was CEO at the now-bankrupt MF Global Holdings until November, "gave 'direct instructions' to transfer $200 million from a customer fund account to meet an overdraft in a brokerage account with JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), according to a memo written by congressional investigators." That would be an MF brokerage account, meaning that customer money was used to cover company losses. If the memo reflects what really happened, Corzine committed a crime -- either by committing perjury in his congressional testimony several months, in ordering the transfer itself, or both.
Bloomberg's report identifies Corzine as a Democrat in its fourteenth paragraph. But at least Bloomberg did so. That did not occur in reports at the Associated Press, United Press International, MarketWatch.com, CNBC. The Hill's Schroeder did tag Corzine as a Dem. Here are several paragraphs from Bloomberg's report (bolds are mine):
The exercise of watching the press report on the current week's unemployment claims figure as if it's etched in stone and assessing it as if it's the last word -- only to see the figure get upwardly revised the next week virtually without media comment -- is getting extraordinarily tedious and predictable (but of course watching what they do remains necessary).
At the Associated Press, Bloomberg, and Reuters, this week's version of the shell game has a relatively unique twist. The three wire services respectively and all without qualification say that today's seasonally adjusted figure of 351,000 from the Department of Labor "matches a four-year low," "the lowest level in four years," and "back to a four-year low." As seen in the graphic which follows, based on the history of the past year, there's a 98% chance they will be wrong after subsequent revisions, almost all of which have occurred during the very next reported week:
The Department of Labor reported today that initial claims for unemployment benefits increased to 362,000 from an upwardly revised (as usual) 354,000 the previous week. Expectations were for a reading of 351,000 (Business Insider's email) or 352,000 (Bloomberg).
Over at the Associated Press, also known as the Administration's Press, the headlined reaction in its 9:17 a.m. report was: "Applications Hover Near Low Levels." As usual, it took a New Media source, in this case Zero Hedge, to point out something potentially troubling in the news, namely that "this is the first time we have seen three consecutive weeks of rises since August 2010." True, the rises have been modest, but next week will almost certainly see an upward revision to this week (the case for 51 of the past 52 weeks, averaging almost 4,000 and with no decreases). Modest or not, they run counter to presumptive press claims that the job market is "healing" (Reuters) and "improving" (Bloomberg). The howler of the day came from RTT News, which "offers custom news and information solutions" for which subscribers apparently pay at least $250 a month:
Bloomberg's Jeanne Cummings got a much-needed lesson Friday about money not being everything in politics.
After she claimed on PBS's Inside Washington that Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's revival in the race was all due to multimillion dollar donations from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer correctly replied that the former Speaker's ascendancy resulted from his debate performances in South Carolina not money (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Last Friday saw two high-profile liberal pundits - one on Bloomberg News's Political Capital and the other on PBS's Inside Washington - repeating the story that Newt Gingrich divorced his first wife while she was being treated for cancer, without either of them noting that one of Gingrich's daughters - Jackie Gingrich Cushman - last May specifically disputed the account that her mother, who is still alive, ever had cancer, or that her father initiated the divorce during a hospital visit.
On Bloomberg News's Political Capital show, host Al Hunt only vaguely noted that Gingrich's daughter had disputed some of the commonly believed details of her parents' divorce as he dismissed her account as "demonstrably false." After Bloomberg News columnist Margaret Carlson called the former House Speaker a "lout," Hunt asserted:
Like so many of her liberal media colleagues, Bloomberg's Margaret Carlson believes cutting payroll taxes for a short period of time stimulates the economy.
Fortunately for viewers of PBS's Inside Washington, when she tried to make this absurd conclusion Friday, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer was there to give her and others on the panel a much-needed education (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Late Friday afternoon, Todd Shields at Bloomberg News broke a story about some guy, who happens to be an Obama and Democratic Party donor (but not disclosed), against whom the Securities and Exchange Commission is formally considering an enforcement action (also not disclosed, though it was noted at the New York Times's Dealbook Blog five hours before Shields's report), whose "wireless service caused interference to 75 percent of global-positioning system receivers examined in a U.S. government test." Though it generated a fair amount of center-right blog discussion over the weekend, the establishment press largely ignored the stunning result.
Earlier this evening, Shields and Alan Levin reported even more troubling info (as carried at the San Francisco Chronicle; bolds are mine throughout this post):
Not that it took keen insight to catch it, but yours truly was one of a very few people who pointed out that General/Government Motors unduly dressed up its financial statements in advance of its late-2010 initial public offering by foisting an unreasonable level of vehicle inventory on dealers. The effect of this was to enable the company, which in accordance with general industry practice recognizes sales when it ships vehicles to dealers, to book an estimated $900 million in sent-ahead pre-tax profit largely not supported by dealer sales.
Contrary to the drawdown or at least level-off I expected after the IPO, GM, with of course virtually no establishment media coverage, has continued to push vehicles out to its dealers to what would appear to be potentially dangerous levels, as seen in the following graphic (HT to Zero Hedge for original):
It's truly delicious when the outfit which calls itself the Essential Global News Network essentially admits that a certain economic theory which begins with a "K" has become such an undesirable word -- almost an epithet -- that it avoids its mention.
That was the case with a pathetic critique of GOP candidates' economic plans written up by the wire service's Charles Babington on Sunday. When I saw its headline ("Studies challenge wisdom of GOP candidates' plans"), I blew past the story because I expected the same-old, same-old. Then an emailer with a journalistic background informed me that it was even worse than usual. He's so right that I can't possibly pick it apart without writing a book; so I'll just concentrate on the paragraph containing the theory with no name and the one which immediately follows it:
At the Washington Post's "with Bloomberg" Business section, the self-described locale "Where Washington and Business Intersect," a Wednesday item by Neil Irwin ("Fed downgrades growth forecasts, sees high unemployment for years ahead") told us that "The Federal Reserve sharply downgraded its projections for the U.S. economy," but never cited any projected growth numbers. Seriously.
Having learned what they are for 2011 and 2012 in the seventh and eighth paragraphs at an Associated Press item (well, at least they got to it, though it probably won't make it into many broadcasts of AP's content because of its placement), it's understandable why staunch defenders of Team Obama would resist doing so. After the jump, I'll take out the mystery by getting to the AP's numbers first:
Consider this post the print and online follow-up to the report early Tuesday evening by Matthew Balan at NewsBusters on the failure of the Big Three TV networks to note the Democratic Party/Obama fundraising affiliation of former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, whose now-bankrupt MF Global financial firm has apparently admitted to diverting client money in a futile attempt to battle its financial free-fall.
Balan found that the Big Three's morning shows "omitted the party affiliation of Jon Corzine as they reported on the federal investigation into his brokerage firm," and that ABC didn't even mention Corzine's name. This is not surprising, as the wire services which provide much of the raw material for these shows for the most part similarly failed, and have continued to do so. A rundown of much of what the wires have produced, along with a look at several New York Times items, follows the jump:
Jonathan Alter, who spent 28 years at Newsweek, has been a columnist at Bloomberg News since early this year. Just this year, the reliably and insufferably liberal Alter, among many other things, called the Republican House's passage of Paul Ryan's budget plan in April an attempt "to throw Granny in the snow," and coldly calculated that in the wake of her shooting, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was more valuable to Barack Obama's reelection efforts alive than dead.
In early January, Alter, appearing on an MSNBC program, took great offense at Rep. Darrell Issa's suggestion that the Obama White House is "one of the most corrupt administrations ever," claiming that "there is zero evidence" of it. The Washington Examiner's Tim Carney proceeded to identify seven such examples. Alter must have been saying "la-la I can't hear you" during Carney's chronicle, as his October 27 column was an exercise in sheer fantasy from beginning to end (bolds are mine throughout this post):
Yesterday, Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider reacted to the mixed economic news of the day by observing: "Lots of folks are scratching their head about today's dismal UMich/Reuters consumer sentiment number coming in so ugly, just as retail sales for September came in so strong."
It seems that the folks at the Associated Press were not among the head-scratchers. From all appearances, the self-described Essential Global News Network, whose acronym might as well stand for "The Administration's Press," didn't cover the consumer sentiment story at all. What follows are several paragraphs from Alex Kowalski at Bloomberg News describing just how ugly it was, complete with the "U-word" we've all come to know and laugh at (bolds are mine throughout this post):
PBS's Charlie Rose opened last night’s Bloomberg/Washington Post GOP presidential economic policy debate by noting the round table format was like a “kind of kitchen table where families for generations have come together to talk and solve their problems.”
But through much of the debate it sounded more like Thanksgiving dinner with your liberal aunt and uncle as panelist Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post hammered the candidates from the left and moderator Charlie Rose used a 27-year-old Reagan sound bite to push candidates to come out in favor of tax increases.
Tonight's GOP presidential debate (hosted by The Washington Post and Bloomberg TV) is moderated by longtime PBS late-night host Charlie Rose. His show has been touted as a "national salon," but it's a very cozy place for liberal media elites. Conservatives are not regulars. The most frequent guests include his journalist buddy Al Hunt (with 79 appearances), who now works at Bloomberg, and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (74 appearances). Most of the GOP contenders have never been on Rose's PBS show. (Gingrich and Romney have. It's not shocking that the only one to appear in the last four years was Jon Huntsman, last December.)
Rose has been notoriously fawning with some major Democratic figures, including the Clintons, and perhaps most energetically with Al Gore. In a cozy 2007 interview taped inside a supportive liberal bubble at the 92nd Street Y in New York, Rose offered testimony of how correct Gore was on the issues and how graciously he accepted defeat in 2000 (apparently after the six-week marathon of legal battles). The experts Rose quoted on this matter were two liberal columnists from The Washington Post and a liberal venture capitalist:
Yesterday, in a different post about long-term unemployment, I wrote: "Of all the reality-denying aspects of Obama administration press coverage, the usually implicit but occasionally explicit assertion that he and his people are just helpless bystanders in an economic calamiity is easily among the most annoying."
Bloomberg's Mike Dorning triggered the annoyance meter today with an "analysis" contending that President Obama's move from being a "conciliator" (quoting an alleged "expert") to supporting "populist causes" and sympathizing with the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street assemblage "may provide some inoculation" against the continuing bad economy -- as if Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the their party bear no conceivable responsibility for current economic conditions. Here are the first seven paragraphs of Dorning's dreck (bolds and numbered tags are mine):