Accuracy in Media

For many media outlets, the most important thing to remember in reporting on the monthly jobs report, which came out Friday, seemed to be to work the word “but” into the headline.

“February’s jobs report was great for retail, but the long-term trend isn’t changing,” wrote Yahoo Finance. “This was the perfect jobs report for the stock market, investors and economists say,” CNBC wrote. “But the key number for markets, however, was the average hourly wage number which rose just 0.1 percent, below the 0.2 percent expected.”

Most stories on the jobs report acknowledged the plethora of good news – “a blockbuster 313,000 jobs in February,” USA Today reported, far in excess of the 205,000 expected.

But some took care to make sure credit did not go to the Trump administration. “In February, the U.S. economy added 313,000 jobs,” wrote Yahoo. “This report beat economist expectations and served as another sign that the post-crisis recovery entering its 10th year continues to gain strength.”

The recovery is not entering its 10th year. President Obama was the first president since data has been collected to not have presided over a single year with 3 percent growth. Growth this year could top 4 percent. He left office with the worst rate of job market participation in American history and some of the highest rates of unemployment by African-Americans and Latinos. Labor force participation is now at an all-time high, and jobless rates for African-Americans and Latinos are at all-time lows.

This was highlighted in the CNBC report.

“February’s jobs report was viewed by some economists as the ‘best of the recovery’ because a surprise 313,000 jobs were created but also more workers were pulled into the labor market and were able to find jobs,” wrote CNBC’s website. The story also noted that 806,000 people came back into the labor force during the month and 97 percent of them found jobs.

“If you want a job you can get one,” CNBC quoted Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jeffries, as saying. “This is about as much as you can expect … We’ve waited 10 years for this, and here we are.”

But that rosy assessment was followed up with the inevitable warning signs.

Markets generally opened higher on the news, but the dollar “saw choppy trading” because “wage growth showed a slowdown,” cautioned MarketWatch.

The January report put wage growth at 2.9 percent on an annualized basis – the largest such month-to-month increase in nine years, which prompted fears of upward pressure on wages and brought its own cautionary notes. In February, the figure fell to 2.6 percent, which the media said meant the economy was not actually so strong and the gains continue to flow to those at the top of the economic ladder.

The Washington Post wrote a story on the jobs report that focused on the wage growth numbers – the only negative element it could find – but heavily promoted a graphic captioned, “How healthy is Trump’s economy?” The answer: It is as healthy as Obama made it.

After offering a link to a story teased “The economy President Trump loves looks a lot like the one candidate Trump hated,” it states in its introductory paragraph: “Overall, the economy was doing pretty well at the end of Barack Obama’s presidency, and it has remained strong into the beginning of President Trump’s first term.”

It provides a graphic of jobs added under each president. President Clinton, who was in office when the tech boom occurred, added 239,000 jobs per month during his eight years. George W. Bush, who inherited the dot com crash, added 14,000. Obama added 120,000. Trump, who inherited economic malaise, is adding more than 190,000 per month with more wage growth than has been seen in recent years.

It later states that, although jobs are coming back in almost every industry, workers in some niche industries are finding the comeback slower to materialize, which is almost always the case.

And it took one last shot at the wage numbers.

“While the economy is performing well overall, workers currently aren’t seeing their wages rise very much (although growth is higher than at any point since 2009) – a disappointment for many Americans who are looking to make up for ground lost during the recession.”

Which, according to the Post, ended nine years ago.

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