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AP Plays Fast and Loose with Jobless Numbers

The Associated Press is misleading its readers when reporting on job losses.

by
Tom Blumer

Bio

July 31, 2008 - 10:30 am
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Even casual followers of news about the U.S. labor market during the past five months “know” that the economy has lost a lot of jobs.

Those who have read or heard excerpts or snippets from dispatches written by the Associated Press’s Jeannine Aversa during that time (chances are good that they have, because of the wide distribution of AP’s reporting) also “know” that employers have been “slashing” jobs and handing out stacks of “pink slips.”

February’s Employment Situation Report (ESR) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that the economy had lost 63,000 jobs inspired Aversa (bolds are mine throughout this column) to write that:

Dangerous cracks in the nation’s job market are deepening. Employers slashed jobs by the largest amount in five years …

After the March ESR, Aversa told us that:

Workers’ pink slips stacked ever higher in March as jittery employers slashed 80,000 jobs …

When the April ESR initially showed a lower-than-expected 20,000 jobs lost, Aversa wrote:

Businesses are handing out pink slips as they cope with an economy that is teetering on the edge of a recession, or possibly in one already.

For May’s ESR, which showed another 49,000 jobs lost, she switched her focus to the unemployment rate:

Pink slips piled up and jobs disappeared into thin air in May as the nation’s unemployment rate zoomed to 5.5 percent in the biggest one-month jump in decades.

Help-wanted signs are vanishing along with jobs …

After yet another reported reduction in June, this time by 62,000 jobs, Aversa reached the peak of her 2008 histrionics:

… [There is] a storm of pink slips drenching this year’s July Fourth holiday for more than 60,000 Americans … leaving thousands more worried about the future.

Indeed, there’s no denying that from February through June (after subsequent revisions), the BLS has reported that the economy lost 362,000 jobs:

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That’s not good at all. But you would think from Aversa’s accumulated five months of overheated reporting that bodies of the hapless, helpless unemployed are strewn everywhere.

Clearly, that’s not the case. But why is that?

What if I told you that Aversa’s “slashing” and “pink slip” assertions are not only exaggerated, but false?

BLS, in the left box below, estimates that the economy actually added 2,712,000 jobs from February through June:

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How can that be? Here’s how.

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