Media Negative throughout Nearly Four Years of Job Growth
The media havenât done the best job on jobs.
In 47 straight months of job growth, the
The media havenât done the best job on jobs.
In 47 straight months of job growth, the
Katie Couric dismissed July 2007 job creation in one sentence on the âCBS Evening Newsâ August 3: âThe Labor Department says the economy was able to create only 92,000 jobs.â (emphasis added)
Despite economic worries over subprime loans and credit markets, the chief economist of Bear Stearns, David Malpass, wrote that âJobs matter moreâ in an August 7 editorial.
âJobs matter more. For many, the value of future employment is much greater than their home equity. The low jobless claims and unemployment rate â clear signs of a strong labor environment â raise confidence and likely future wages,â wrote Malpass in The Wall Street Journal.
If economistsâ predictions are correct, September 7 will mark four straight years of positive job growth â an economic milestone 48 months long. But in the last four years, journalists have omitted or downplayed low unemployment figures and emphasized âmassive layoffs.â Theyâve overlooked later revisions to Labor Department statistics that showed even more jobs added. And in doing so, the news media have missed an enormous piece of the economic picture â skewing the situation for viewers.
Looking ahead, The Wall Street Journalâs Economic Forecasting Survey said that economists âexpect the economy to add around 108,000 jobs a month over the next 12 months.â
While some economists claim that 150,000 new jobs per month is necessary to keep up with population growth, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta said âthe more appropriate job creation target to keep unemployment under control is 1.17 million jobs per year, or about 98,000 jobsâ per month.
When the jobs numbers were reported in the media, stories were often downbeat like CNNâs Lou Dobbs on Dec. 3, 2004, despite 16 months of straight job growth and only 3 days after it was announced that Gross Domestic Product grew by 3.9 percent in the third quarter.
âThe unemployment rate today, 5.4 percent, but only 112,000 jobs created. Thereâs some real big issues here,â said Dobbs on âLou Dobbs Tonight.â Of course, since then the unemployment rate has dropped as low as 4.4 percent and is presently at a low 4.6 percent.
Job losses were also emphasized by networks presenting a distorted picture of the
Thatâs what âCBS Evening Newsâ did on July 20, 2005.
âTwenty-five thousand layoffs and more on the way. Iâm Trish Regan with why the jobs picture is looking very âpinkâ these days,â said Regan. That report was less than two weeks after the government reported 146,000 jobs had been created in June 2005.
Pink as in âpink slipâ was not an accurate portrayal of the national employment situation in the past 4 years. Since August 2003, when the Bush tax cuts took effect, more than 8.3 million new jobs have been created and the unemployment rate dropped as low as 4.4 percent twice. That was the lowest rate since May 2001.
According to James Sherk and Rea S. Hederman, Jr. of The Heritage Foundation, the unemployment rate âhas not fallen below this rate [4.4 to 4.6 percent] since the early 1970sâ with the exception of the late 1990s tech bubble.
Predictions, Omissions and Layoffs, Oh My!
The past four years of media coverage on jobs have been marred by pessimistic predictions, omissions, lack of economic context and focus on job losses instead of gains.
On May 3, 2005, ABC âWorld News Tonightâ reporter Betsy Stark warned that the upcoming Labor Department numbers would be bad news: âAnd the next jobs report on Friday should tell us about how much the economy slowed down.â
Three days later, the government said the total number of jobs created was 274,000, the best initial report of 2005. Stark didnât bother to correct her wildly incorrect prediction.
ABCâs Jake Tapper also supplied a negative prediction on Aug. 16, 2006, saying, âBut growth may not be enough to stem layoffs, especially post-Labor Day when thousands of jobs are expected to be cut.â
But employment actually went up in September 2006 by 51,000 jobs and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.6 percent.
NBCâs Tom Costello overlooked the fact that 5-percent unemployment was lower than the average for the last three decades when he asked âis the economy creating enough jobs to keep the unemployment rate at just 5 percent?â That was on âNightly Newsâ Nov. 4, 2005.
Of the three networks, only NBC âTodayâ actually reported between July 6 and 8 that 132,000 jobs were created in June 2007.
The Business & Media Institute analyzed job and employment coverage from evening news programs on ABC, CBS and NBC in 2005 and found the networks focused on job losses in slightly more than half the reports. Just 35 percent of the stories addressed job gains.
An earlier report from BMI called âOne Economy, Two Spinsâ found that in 2004 â when President Bush was in a similar economic situation as President Clinton had been in 1996 â the media repeatedly criticized Bush for poor job creation, but praised
The media also often took a âgood, butâ approach to positive employment news. âLou Dobbs Tonightâ reported that 215,000 jobs were added in November 2005, but then undermined it with a story about the âdevastated manufacturing sector.â
â[D]espite todayâs news on the economy, the news from our nationâs devastated manufacturing sector is getting worse tonight.
The media have used manufacturing to forecast economic downturn for years. But todayâs economy isnât Old Detroit. In a May 2006 column, economist, professor and BMI adviser Walter E. Williams explained that
Media Silent on Additional Jobs
Journalists usually didnât report revisions to employment reports, which can show more job growth than previously indicated. By ignoring that information, viewers were left with a negatively skewed perspective of the
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its report on employment for June 2007 on July 6. In that report, the BLS added 75,000 jobs to the total for April and May. According to Heritage Foundation experts, the April revision âwas especially significant since it was originally reported that fewer jobs were created during April than during any month in the past two years.â
But ABC, CBS and NBC didnât see it that way. While NBCâs âTodayâ on July 6 did report the âbetter-than-expectedâ job growth for June, it didnât mention the revisions for April and May at all.
Another example was September 2005, the month Hurricane Katrina devastated
Experts had predicted 500,000 lost jobs as a result of Katrina, so positive growth for September should have resulted in cheering, not silence.
Speaking of silence âŠ in its annual benchmark revision, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Oct. 6, 2006, that it found 810,000 more new jobs than previously reported. The networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) didnât report that finding at all that weekend (Oct. 6-9).
Despite the networksâ silence, Investorâs Business Daily called the finding âthe biggest upward revision in at least 10 yearsâ and The Wall Street Journal labeled it the âwhoopsâ report on Oct. 9, 2006.
âMost of the media has ignored all this and instead focused on the disappointing 51,000 ânew jobsâ number from the establishment survey for September,â explained the Journalâs editorial.
How Did We Get 8.3 Million New Jobs?
Since the media presented the employment situation negatively over the past four years, they certainly didnât look for a reason that the country has created 8.3 million jobs in 47 months.
Many free-market economists and experts credit the Bush tax cuts with the high job creation and low unemployment that has benefited the
âThe tax cuts clearly helped boost the economy, as employment has grown every month since August 2003, shortly after these tax cuts were made law,â wrote The Heritage Foundationâs James Sherk and Rea S. Hederman, Jr. in July.
They also explained, âA low unemployment rate and solid job creation rate have increased income for workers. Wages have risen 3.9 percent over the past 12 months, while inflation has risen by only 2.6 percent. Raises and promotions are moving many workers up the career ladder.â
Economist Stephen Moore testified before the House of Representatives in March 2003 that it is a myth that the âBush tax cut wonât stimulate economic growth or jobs.â
Lawrence Kudlow of CNBCâs âKudlow & Companyâ has also credited the tax cuts with job growth. In 2006 he wrote, âThe dirty little secret here is that record low tax rates on capital are leading to continued job and income gains as businesses continue to expand.â