Accuracy in Media

There is a curious double-standard going on with reporting on labor conditions in the country. 

It’s exemplified in the coverage that CBS News has given to unemployment claims reported this week. 

Two weeks ago the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported job creation came in significantly under the expected 1 million jobs that analysist forecast and instead added just 266,000 jobs for April.  

It helped accelerate the debate about whether extended unemployment benefits have kept workers on the sideline, content with making more on unemployment than they would if they got jobs. 

In part, the low jobs creation number combined with a record number of available of jobs (8.1 million) has Republican governors around the country suspending extended unemployment and requiring the out-of-work to start looking for a job. 

Of course, CBS News claims that economists say that there is no correlation between poor jobs creation and extended unemployment and took time to explain that in story highlighting the end of the benefits by GOP-led states. 

The implication is that there is something seriously out of whack with our labor market that’s different than other recoveries and it’s the fault of the GOP for not seeing it. 

Yet this week, when news came out of drop in first-time unemployment claims to 444,000 from the previous figure of 478,000, CBS News claimed that the essentially good news is now proof that the labor market was “continuing to heal.”

“Despite disappointing job growth in April,” says CBS News, “hiring around the U.S. has been strong this year as consumer spending rebounds amid signs the coronavirus is finally receding and repeated rounds of federal fiscal stimulus. The economy grew at a brisk 6.4% annualized rate between January and March.”

In essence, CBS News is making the argument that everything bad happening in the economy is the fault of the GOP, while trying to highlight anything good so as to credit Biden with a strong economy. 

And it posits a dangerous assumption. 

The question has never been would the economy rebound after the pandemic began to end, but how strong the rebound would be, and how long it would last. 

Even an economy with 8.1 million available jobs will begin to falter if the jobs aren’t filled fast enough. 

The assumption that companies can just absorb the cost of wages after a year of a pandemic-induced downturn is a dangerous assumption. 

The danger is that the economy will slow down, or not grow as fast as necessary to get back to normal. 

And perhaps normal would be a good goal to go after. 

After we get to better-than-normal, then we can argue about how to divide the spoils as CBS News seems anxious to do. 

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