Unemployment Falls & Wages Rise; Couric: 'But Do the Jobs Out There Pay Enough?'

In an interview with Vice President Dick Cheney excerpted on ABC's World News on Friday night, George Stephanopoulos cited the “exceptionally low” 4.4 percent October unemployment rate announced earlier in the day -- down two-tenths from September to the lowest since early 2001 -- and wondered: “Why don't you think the President's getting more credit for that?" Cheney blamed the media: “Well, you guys don't help. The fact of course is that what's news is if there's bad news and that gets coverage. But the good news that's out there day after day after day doesn't get as much attention.”

Indeed, Cheney was prescient. On Friday night ABC limited coverage to the Stephanopoulos question and 15 seconds from anchor Charles Gibson nearly 19 minutes into the newscast while CBS, and NBC to a lesser extent, spun the good news into bad. NBC's Brian Williams gave it just 20 seconds as he reported “employers added 92,000 jobs in October,” but added how “that was below expectations.” Williams skipped how the August and September job numbers were revised to show 139,000 more jobs created. And though wages have grown by 3.9 percent over the past 12 months, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric used the lower unemployment news as a segue to ask: “But do the jobs out there pay enough? A big issue in the battle for Congress this year is how much the lowest-paid workers make.” Viewers then saw a full story on the plight of minimum wage workers and how raising it is "resonating" with voters. (Transcript follows)

The AP's Jeannine Aversa on Friday reported how the 4.4 percent unemployment rate for October, released Friday by the Labor Department, “was the lowest since the spring of 2001" and though the 92,000 jobs added in October were below expectations, the “gains in both August and September turned out to have been much stronger. For those two months combined, the economy generated 139,000 more jobs than previously estimated.” She also relayed how worker's wages “saw solid gains last month. Their hourly earnings climbed to $16.91, up 0.4 percent from September. Over the past 12 months, wages have grown by 3.9 percent.”

Brian Williams read this short item on Friday's NBC Nightly News:
"Here in the U.S., news on the economy tonight. The job market, to be specific. Employers added 92,000 jobs in October. That was below expectations, but the unemployment rate dropped two tenths of a percent to 4.4 percent. That is big news. It is the lowest level since the spring of 2001. Those numbers raised fears of more interest rate hikes. On Wall Street, the Dow was down 32 and a half points..."
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the November 3 CBS Evening News coverage:
Katie Couric: "The government today put out the final report on unemployment before the election. It shows the jobless rate fell in October to the lowest level in five years, 4.4 percent. And the economy created about 92,000 jobs. But do the jobs out there pay enough? A big issue in the battle for Congress this year is how much the lowest-paid workers make. Here's Lee Cowan in Ohio."

Lee Cowan: "It's called 'black light bowling,' and it's proved a pretty colorful way to drum out business outside Cincinnati. For the ball buffers and shoe sorters, this is often their first job, sweeping up a few extra bucks at just over the minimum wage."

Michael McIntyre, bowling lane employee: "I mean, $6 an hour, it's not much, but it helps put gas in the car."

Cowan: "It's not bad for an after-school job. But what about someone like Torrie Gregg? She makes just 25 cents an hour more than Michael working at a McDonald's. And she supports five kids. What are you usually left with at the end of the month after all the bills are paid?"

Torrie Gregg, working mother: "Cents. Sometimes nothing."

Cowan: "Her pay is tied to the minimum wage, which Congress hasn't raised above $5.15 an hour since 1997. Since then, 23 states have raised it on their own, and next Tuesday minimum wage will be voted on in a half dozen more states, including Ohio, which wants to raise it to $6.85."

Gregg: "Any little bit helps."

Cowan: "That resonates here in Ohio, which ranks near the bottom in terms of the nation's job growth. In fact, the city of Cleveland was voted the largest poor city in America with one out of every three people living below the poverty line. Like Amanda Stewart who makes less than $10,000 a year."

Amanda Stewart, sandwich shop worker: "I never expected my life when I was a kid to be like this."

Cowan: "But small business owners, like the one back at that bowling alley, have argued for years that if you raise the minimum wage, minimum wage jobs could strike out."

Frank Ruggerie, business owner: "It's going to make me just scrutinize, you know, that part of my labor force much tighter."

Cowan: "He fears if it passes he may have to lay off some of his entry-level workers. Some economists agree with him, but not all of them. They cite states where the minimum wage was raised, and that actually led to job growth. Seventy percent of Ohio voters say they are in favor of the increase just to get the wages out of the gutter . Lee Cowan, CBS News, Cleveland."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center