There's no denying the economy is slowing, and may have either entered a recession, or is on the brink of one. Maybe.
However, the media's hysterical response to Friday's February jobs report lacked any historical reference to how the labor market behaved in previous recessions.
Instead, press outlet after press outlet decided that the loss of 63,000 jobs in February was a clear signal the recession they've been calling for since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in September 2005 had finally begun.
In fact, as they fretted over this decline in non-farm payrolls, media chose not to ask and answer an important question:
How does a loss of 63,000 jobs compare to payroll declines at the beginning of previous recessions?
Interesting historical question, wouldn't you agree?
Let's begin our examination with the recession that started with a 7.8 percent decline in Gross Domestic Product the second quarter of 1980. That April, non-farm payrolls declined by 145,000, 2.3 times what was lost in February 2008.
Of course, since the total number of employees in April 1980 was a little under 91 million versus today's almost 138 million, this 145,000 loss represented even a far greater percentage decline.
Maybe more important, since February 2008 was the second month of job losses, a potentially better reference point would be the 431,000 jobs lost in May 1980, the second month of that year's recession. Compare that to the 63,000 payroll declines last month, and one has to question all the hysteria.
Moving forward, when the '81-'82 recession began with a 4.9 percent GDP slide in the fourth quarter of 1981, 100,000 jobs were lost that October, followed by 209,000 in November.
When a 3.0 percent GDP drop signalled the start of the '90-'91 recession, 161,000 jobs were lost in October followed by 144,000 in November.
The most recent recession in 2001 is a hard one to plot. After all, from a classical definition standpoint, there ended up never being too consecutive quarters of GDP declines. However, as most economists feel a recession began in March 2001, 281,000 jobs were lost in April of that year.
Add it all up, and in the first two months of the 1980 recession, 576,000 jobs were lost. In the '81-'82 recession, this number was 309,000. In '90-'91, the tally was 305,000. In 2001, the number was 311,000. This represents an average two-month loss in the beginning of the last four recessions of 375,000 jobs.
Yet, in the first two months of what media believe to be the recession of 2008, the total job loss has been 85,000, or roughly one-fifth the average of the last four recessions in the past three decades.
Hmmm. You think that might be why media outlets chose not to apply an historical reference to Friday's figures?
Of course, in the end, we may very well be in one as we speak, and the first quarter GDP to be reported in April might actually show its first decline since the third quarter of 2001.
And, the second quarter might also show a GDP decline thereby fitting the classical definition of a recession: two consecutive quarters of GDP declines, which frankly means that we won't actually know if we're in a recession until late August.
Sadly, media can't wait that long, especially not in an election year when economy-bashing will certainly help their Party take back the White House.
Does this mean the media are beginning to follow the same strategy they employed in 1992 when they assisted Bill Clinton in his run for the presidency? After all, despite the fact the 1990s recession actually ended in the second quarter of 1991, press outlets continued to portray a terrible economy so that Team Clinton could focus on their mantra, "It's the Economy, Stupid!"
And, for those that forgot when the recession ended that decade, please also be advised that as media members depicted bad economic times in 1992, the GDP grew by 3.3 percent that year, its strongest performance since 1989.
With this in mind, it seems imperative for New Media outlets to do everything within their power to make sure the electorate is getting the real economic news this year, for the mainstream press, all atwitter at the thought of regaining the White House, certainly can't be trusted to do so.