Looking On the Bright Side of Unemployment


Weekly initial jobless claims rose to 408,000 last week, which was the usual expectedly “unexpected” news over at Reuters:

New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, according to a government report on Thursday that suggested hiring in August was steady but not robust.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 408,000, the Labor Department said.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 400,000. The prior week’s figure was revised up to 399,000 from the previously reported 395,000.

[Emphasis mine.]  Writing at Hot Air, Ed Morrissey has had his fill of reporters advancing the hallucinatory theory that “claims below the 400,000 mark are usually associated with a stable labor market.”

There has never been a time when a 400K level of initial weekly jobless claims has been associated with a “stable labor market,” and I challenge Reuters to identify even one period of stable labor markets where we had a 400K range of reports — ever.

For my money, the Associated Press report of this latest grim news is an equally fascinating example of spin doctoring.  Here’s how it kicks off:

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits rose back above 400,000 last week. Still, the four-week average, a more reliable gauge of the job market, fell to the lowest level since mid-April. 

The report suggests that the economy is creating jobs but not nearly enough to lower the high unemployment rate. 

Well, that doesn’t sound so bad!  The economy is creating jobs, but not nearly enough to lower the high unemployment rate!  What an absurdly pointless sentence.  Have there been many points in the history of the United States when that statement would not have been true?  How many times has the economy completely stopped creating jobs, and have any of them come during the past fifty years?

Ed Morrissey will be happy to know that the AP has taken his input about the mythical 400,000-claim limit signaling stable growth to heart:

The four-week average dropped for the seventh straight week to 402,500. 

Still, applications typically must fall below 375,000 to signal healthy job growth. The last time they were that low was in late February. 

[Emphasis mine.]  See?  375,000 is the new magic number for “healthy job growth.”

Naturally, the AP applauds the way our “unemployment rate ticked down to 9.1 percent” last month, citing the completely bogus U-3 unemployment number cooked up to keep public outrage under control.  The real U-6 number, which counts the under-employed and people who left the workforce entirely, is currently 16.1%, which does not sound as good in a press release.  No surprises there – every media outlet repeats the U-3 metric without criticism.

But then we get this howler of a paragraph:

Still, July’s job gains are barely enough to keep up with population growth. At least double that many new jobs are needed to significantly reduce unemployment. And a consumer sentiment survey taken earlier this month showed confidence in the economy fell to the lowest level in 31 years, raising concerns that Americans could pull back on spending. 

Let me rephrase that slightly: July’s gains are less than half what is needed to reduce unemployment, but that’s “barely enough to keep up with population growth.”  Since when is “less than half” equivalent to “barely enough?”

When you’re trying very hard to make an unbelievable disaster sound less horrible, that’s when.  A recent Gallup poll put President Obama’s approval rating on the economy at 26%, leading many to wonder who the heck these 26% could possibly be.  One reason Obama’s not in the teens where he belongs is that artfully written news stories extend him countless little silver linings and benefits of the doubt that would never have been given to news coverage of President John McCain’s collapsing economy.

You’ll be happy to know that someone is hiring.  Investor’s Business Daily reports on the biggest growth industry of the Obama Era:

If the federal government’s regulatory operation were a business, it would be one of the 50 biggest in the country in terms of revenues, and the third largest in terms of employees, with more people working for it than McDonald’s, Ford, Disney and Boeing combined.

Under President Obama, while the economy is struggling to grow and create jobs, the federal regulatory business is booming.

Regulatory agencies have seen their combined budgets grow a healthy 16% since 2008, topping $54 billion, according to the annual “Regulator’s Budget,” compiled by George Washington University and Washington University in St. Louis.

That’s at a time when the overall economy grew a paltry 5%.

Meanwhile, employment at these agencies has climbed 13% since Obama took office to more than 281,000, while private-sector jobs shrank by 5.6%.

Obamanomics: Growth in regulation bringing private-sector enervation.