Roger’s Rules

Chicken Little Alert, or how to make good news sound like bad news

Yesterday must have been disappointing for the doomsayers. Newly released government figures showed that there was real GDP growth for the first quarter of 2008 of .6 percent: not hot-rod territory, to be sure. But weren’t we supposed to be barreling into a recession? Apparently Reuters wants you to think so. A headline today informed readers that: White House hopefuls leap on weak job picture. Oh dear, Oh dear. “White House hopefuls,” quoth the newswire,

seized on a weak U.S. jobs picture on Friday to promote their cures for the ailing economy amid bickering over a proposal to suspend the federal gasoline tax.

Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Republican John McCain quickly reacted to a Labor Department report that said U.S. employers cut 20,000 jobs in April, the fourth straight month of job losses and a new sign that the economy is flirting with a recession.

Flirting, eh? As in “a quick wink from across the room”? Anyway, if Reuters is to be believed, we’re in for a rocky ride.

But wait: is Reuters to be believed? They’re the news service, you remember, that doesn’t believe in terrorists. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Steven Jukes, Reuters’ global head of news, sent around an internal memo that sniffed: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. . . . Reuters upholds the principle that we do not use the word terrorist.” How . . . principled, Mr. Jukes.

Similarly, one man’s economic revitalization is another man’s economic downturn.

For Reuters, the U.S. economy is cozying up to recession while over at The Washington Post that same government report inspires sober enthusiasm: “Employers Cut Fewer Jobs Than Expected” ran the Post’s headline, followed by this exposition

The U.S. economy shed jobs in April for the fourth consecutive month, but at a slower-than-expected pace that helped improve the unemployment rate, the federal government reported today.

At the same time, a jump in factory orders and new action by the Federal Reserve helped buoy U.S. stock markets, which appeared headed for a second day of gains.

Employers eliminated 240,000 jobs over the first three months of the year, and analysts had expected a comparable drop of perhaps 80,000 positions for April.

But new data from the Labor Department showed that total employment was down just 20,000 for the month, as health-and education-related businesses and others in the service sector continued their steady expansion of payrolls. The unemployment rate fell to 5 percent, from 5.1 percent the month before.

OK: there were some job losses, but only a quarter as many as had been expected. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate decline from a low 5.1 percent to an even lower 5 percent. Not only that, factory orders were up, the Fed was showing some leadership, and the stock market was up. What part of the phrase “good news” don’t you understand? As Instapundit put it: “DUDE , WHERE’S MY RECESSION?”