On April 4, the Associated Press' Christopher Rugaber wrote: "Gone are the fears that the economy could fall into another recession."
Having in effect announced the repeal of the business cycle for the foreseeable future, despite the fact that the economy's post-recession job recovery performance has been the worst since World War II by miles, it seems that Rugaber is now doing his best to prop up his assertion with shaky claims about the meaning of government economic reports. That would include the second sentence of his opening paragraph of his dispatch on Thursday's report on jobless claims from the government's Department of Labor (bolds are mine):
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits increased just 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 352,000. The slight gain kept applications at a level consistent with solid hiring and suggests March's sluggish hiring may be temporary.
The Labor Department report released Thursday also noted that the four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose only 2,750 to 361,250. Because the four-week average changes less than the weekly number, many economists say it better captures the pace of layoffs.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They jumped three weeks ago to a four-month high, but then plummeted the next week. The sharp fluctuations reflected volatility around the Easter holiday, department officials said. Overall, applications have declined slightly since January.
"It appears that the modest growth of the economy is continuing to support modest improvement in labor market conditions," said Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors.
... The drop in applications over the past two weeks has led many economists to predict that the job market rebounded this month. Joseph LaVorgna, an economist at Deutsche Bank, said last week's level of applications is consistent with his forecast for 190,000 jobs created in April.
... The economy is expected to grow at a much quicker pace in the January-March quarter than in the final three months of last year. Most economists forecast growth could top an annual rate of 3 percent in the first quarter, up from just 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter.
As a reminder, Rugaber has frequently stated during at least the past year that the threshold below which weekly seasonally adjusted claims would point to job growth and a lower unemployment rate is 375,000. Yet in September 2009, he wrote that "Weekly initial claims are generally at 325,000 or below in a growing economy."
As has so often been the case during the past several years, the press's refusal to look at what is going on with actual (i.e., not seasonally adjusted) economic date undermines their premises of supposed economic improvement, in this case the actual number of weekly claims filed and the raw numbers of jobs added per the government's monthly Employment Situation Summary.
As to raw claims, going back four weeks, which is enough to even out fluctuations due to the Easter holiday, they're only down by about 4% compared to last year:
Additionally, last year was not a banner year, yet March's not seasonally adjusted additions came in far below last year after a promising February:
Note that if this April's job additions trail April 2012, it's highly unlikely seasonally adjusted job additions will come in at the 190,000 figure Rugaber's quoted "expert" claims. If April 2013's raw claims trail April 2012 as they did in March, it's not out of the question that the government will report a seasonally adjusted job loss.
If Christopher Rugaber is going to claim that "March's sluggish hiring may be temporary" -- the kind of "analysis" a responsible reporter shouldn't be writing in the first place -- he's going to need evidence that this is the case, At least as presented in his report, he has little to none.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.