Just hours before unemployment dropped to a 5-year low and just five days before an election, CBS’s Katie Couric was warning about “jobs in jeopardy.”
“The Dow was down for the fifth straight session, the longest losing streak of the year,” a sour Couric relayed to her audience. Looking at “a couple of reasons for today’s decline,” Couric cited unchanged worker productivity coupled with a 3.8 percent jump in wages and benefits in the same time period.
“That could add up to jobs in jeopardy,” Couric worried, as she led into a piece on the struggles of Michigan autoworkers.
Couric spoke too soon. The next morning the federal government released new data that show the lowest unemployment rate in five years and strong job growth over the past few months.
The November report “showed that the civilian unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage point from 4.6 percent in September” and “marked the third month in a row that the politically prominent jobless rate decline,” noted Associated Press writer Jeannine Aversa.
While the October job numbers fell below expectations “both August and September turned out to be much stronger than previously estimated,” Aversa reported.
But what of the productivity numbers? The Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk offered some perspective a few weeks earlier on how wage hikes follow productivity gains and don’t always match up in the short term snapshots. Snapshots like the third quarter statistics Couric tossed up for viewers.
“Wages and productivity move together over the long term, but often do not move together during the course of the business cycle,” Sherk noted in an October 10 WebMemo.
The bottom line, insisted Sherk was that “contrary to various claims, businesses are not refusing to pass on productivity gains to their workers.” Indeed, in the recovery from the 1991 recession, falling unemployment rate meant that “companies had to compete for workers” and as a result “compensation caught up to productivity gains.”
“Today evidence suggests that we may have already reached this point in the economic cycle,” Sherk concluded his analysis, published 24 days prior to the release of the government’s latest jobs and unemployment data.
Couric’s negative slant on the economy is par for the course for her network, which was found by the Business & Media Institute to have the worst record for covering both unemployment and general economic news stories.
“More than 80 percent of the full-length stories” on the “Evening News” from August 2005 through July 2006 were negatively slanted, while good economic indicia were relegated to short anchor mentions.
“More than 56 percent of CBS’s brief stories” on the economy were positive, BMI researchers reported in the October 11 special report, “Bad News Bears.”