Vinod's Blog
Random musings from a libertarian, tech geek...
Wednesday, March 03, 2004 - 07:31 AM Permanent link for That Liberal Media... Unemployment Stats
That Liberal Media... Unemployment Stats

(via Tim Blair) Maybe it's cuz I'm starting to get undeniably into "adult" category BUT, I really do remember what the economic climate was "back in the day".  Back in the day, recessions meant mass belt tightening and lines at foodbanks rather than booming plasma TV and SUV sales.   There are no doubt blogosphere readers who recall Carter's misery index and >10% unemployment.   

Or how about the majority of the 1980s when the bulk of economists - including Greenspan himself - believed in a rock bottom "natural rate of unemployment" (NAIRU) in the neighborhood of 6%?   Individual cases of unemployment are truly tragic (I can scarcely imagine how I'd react if a manager told me "you're fired!".   My heart would certainly skip more than a few beats.) 

However, we all recognize that at the macro level, some level of unemployment is unavoidable (thank you Milton Friedman).  The real issue is that what's considered "high" and "low" unemployment is eminently subject to framing.  And framing is where the press gets the most leeway to export their biases.   Tim Blair, for example, dug up CNN's take on Clinton-era unemployment data back in July 1996 when the incumbent president was gearing up his reelection campaign against Republican contender Bob Dole.

Clinton's Euphoric...

...Economists didn't expect June's unemployment rate to be much different from May's, which was an already-low 5.6 percent. But in fact, it did fall -- to 5.3 percent. The unemployment rate hasn't been that low since June 1990.

...The president said the figures showed "the most solid American economy in a generation."

Now, we take a look at CNN's take on the publishing of Bush unemployment data in January 2003:

...The unemployment rate fell to 5.7 percent from 5.9 percent in November.

...Though the unemployment rate posted a surprising decline, and many economists believe the job market will improve in 2004, Friday's report probably will keep Fed policy-makers on hold and may put some political pressure on President Bush.

...A weak job market could prove tough for President Bush as the November election approaches.

So 5.6% was "already low" and good news for Clinton's prospects while 5.7% is "tough" for Bush and will cause "political pressure"?  Who needs the Democratic candidate's completely idiotic "worst economic record since Hoover" (a title I give to Dem Prez Carter) rhetoric when you've got CNN reporting like this?   

Now, I recognize that these individual reporters are likely comparing current troughs against the immediately prior peak - but isn't that a really stupid mistake for seemingly "broad perspective" reporters to make?   A mistake that I'm sure they're in no hurry to fix.

Permanent link for That Liberal Media... Unemployment Stats   Comments [ ] :: Main :: Archives