AP Lets 'Bad Economy' Claim Go Unchallenged

October 8th, 2007 9:25 PM

The Associated Press lets a false statement about the economy go into print unchallenged in its story today about the furniture industry's big semi-annual trade show in High Point, N.C.

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Doug Schock shook his head in disbelief while gazing at the empty elevators, typically full as they shuttle thousands of buyers between dozens of showrooms filled with the latest styles in sofas, bedroom sets, and dining room tables and chairs. Not so this fall at the High Point Market, the twice-annual home decor and furnishings trade show that sets the table for what consumers will see in stores next season.

"Those used to be packed. You used to have to elbow your way into showrooms," said Schock, a territory manager for OneCoast Midwest Home. "I know the economy has been down since 9/11, but the housing slump combined with the weak economy, you have a double whammy."

Of course, the economy has not been "down since 9/11." In fact, September 2001 marked the third month of what has now six years of uninterrupted economic growth in the United States of America, the Bush economic boom.

Allowing the quote without providing accurate information puts the AP in the position of publishing a lie about the economy that misleads readers into thinking the economy has not been healthy under President Bush's leadership. The facts, of course, say otherwise.

The same AP story notes that furniture sales nationwide have grown strong since 2001:

Last year, before troubles in the mortgage lending business accelerated the housing downturn, the nation's largest furniture stores posted a 6.6 percent increase in sales, said Jerry Epperson, a furniture industry analyst with Richmond, Va.-based investment firm Mann, Armistead and Epperson.

This year, U.S. consumer spending on furniture and bedding, the broadest measure of industry activity, is expected to grow by just 1.5 percent, and 2.2 percent in 2008, according to a consensus industry forecast compiled by trade journal Furniture Today. That would make 2007 the industry's worst since 2001, when sales declined by 0.6 percent.

In otherwords, furniture sales are expected to continue to grow this year and next year, which would mean six or seven straight years of sales growth for the industry. That's hardly the sign of an industry or economy that's been "down since 9/11."

Update: According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, total retail sales at "furniture and home furnishing stores" were $7.65 billion in August 2001, the month before the 9/11 attack, rising to $7.85 billion in August 2002, then rising to $8.22 billion in August 2003; to $8.81 billion in August 2004; to $9.46 billion in September 2005, and $10.23 billion in September 2006.

And August 2007's total sales in that category of $10.44 billion is not only 36 percent higher than in the month before the 9/11 attack, it also marks the 18th consecutive month in which retail sales in that category topped the $10 billion mark.

Clearly, the furniture selling business hasn't been "down since 9/11." But what about the overall economy?

In September, the U.S. economy added 110,000 new jobs, making September 2007 the 49th consecutive month of job growth. That sets a new record for the longest uninterrupted expansion of the U.S. labor market. Since August 2003, the U.S. economy has created more than 8.1 million jobs. The Bush economic boom that began two months before the 9/11 attack was deemed a "jobless recovery" initially, but now has set a record for consecutive months of job growth.

Real after-tax per capita personal income has increased by over 12.5 percent – an average of over $3,750 per person – since President Bush took office amid a recession less than eight months before the 9/11 attack.

Overall, the economy has grown an average of 2.7 percent per year over the past six years.

The AP simply had no business allowing an assertion that "the economy has been down since 9/11" go onto the wires unrefuted, especially as it only took a few minutes online to dig up the facts.

Update: A reader, "Dave in Las Vegas," passed along a link to a recent story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal that sheds some light on another reason attendance may be down at the High Point furniture show, and these comments:

Here in Las Vegas, a massive home furnishing trade show venue has been in the last few years called the World Market Center. See www.lasvegasmarket.com. They are now topping out their third building which result in about 5 million sq. ft of total display space combining the footage of the previous two buildings. What I think may be happening, with the competition from Las Vegas may be impacting the North Carolina show.
More information the AP could have easily found and included, but didn't.