June 7, 2008

Stunning Ignorance or Lies about ‘Pink Slips’ (Yet Again) from AP

Note: I’ll be trying to keep this post at the top for the rest of the day, but may or may not be successful, depending on Internet access this afternoon.

This comment from a NewsBusters reader explains why:

Thanks for clearing up the fact that people aren’t being fired left and right. My company is continually hiring for entry-level positions and I was wondering if my company is the only one making any money. Now it makes sense.

___________________________________________________

Sorry, this is no time for diplomacy.

The Associated Press’s Jeannine Aversa started off her Friday evening report on the day’s economic news showing, as she and her AP colleagues have for several months, that they either don’t understand very basic concepts relating to the information they’re attempting to digest and convey or are deliberately reporting it inaccurately (i.e., they’re lying):

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. Wall Street swooned, and the White House said President Bush was considering new proposals to revive the economy.

….. Help-wanted signs are vanishing along with jobs, so the unemployment rate is likely to keep climbing, a government report indicated …..

Make no mistake, the news was bad. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the economy lost 49,000 jobs in May, and the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose by more than it has in any single month since the mid-1980s.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Aversa either lied when she wrote that “pink slips piled up,” or that she doesn’t comprehend the subject matter she is supposed to be covering.

Here is the chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), updated Friday, showing how many jobs were actually added (yes, added) in May (to replicate, go to this BLS link and select the top report in the “Not seasonally adjusted” column):

http://www.bizzyblog.com/wp-images/BLSnotSeasJobsAdded0508

The key, of course, is that the chart is not “seasonally adjusted.” That is, it represents BLS’s best estimate that 648,000 more Americans were actually working in May than were working in April.

The government, using commonly accepted statistical techniques, adjusts monthly data for “seasonality.” Seasonally adjusting the raw data smooths reported results, and represents an attempt to give appropriate context to what happened during the previous month relative to previous years. To make a much longer story very short, the fact that the increase in the number of people actually working in May 2008 is less than was added in the previous three years seen above, plus many years previous years not seen, goes a long way towards explaining why the seasonally adjusted jobs reduction in May was 49,000.

May’s news, as noted, was clearly not good, and I’m certainly not pretending otherwise. But I’m not going to sit by and watch reporters from AP and other outlets continue month after month to conjure up, out of “thin air,” false images of tens of thousands of people thrown out onto the streets and employers en masse slamming their doors shut on new hires, without lodging a reality-based objection. Those things emphatically, and obviously, are not happening. As you can see above, BLS estimates that the economy has actually added 2,481,000 jobs during the past four months — a number that, while impressive in isolation, is significantly, unfortunately, and unacceptably lower than the numbers seen in the previous three years, and most relevant years before that.

While not good enough, the February through May results do not represent “pink slips piled up,” and they sure as heck don’t show “jobs disappearing into thin air.” Correctly written up, Aversa would have told us that May hiring was disappointingly low for the fourth straight month, leading to a net loss in seasonally adjusted jobs.

But that wouldn’t have fit the sky-is-falling, ever more recession-obsessed narrative Aversa and other AP reporters have been pushing for years, even though last two quarters of GDP growth has been tepid but positive, and even though the widely-followed Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing and Non Manufacturing indices have, on a weighted average basis, showed economic expansion for the past two months.

It would also appear to be beyond AP to have any curiosity whatsoever as to why an alternative report on jobs issued by payroll and outsourcing giant ADP (full report is at this PDF file) is showing a year-to-date 554,000-job difference from BLS in seasonally adjusted private nonfarm payroll jobs.

As you can see, BLS says that 357,000 seasonally adjusted jobs have been lost so far this year, while ADP is showing 197,000 gained:

http://www.bizzyblog.com/wp-images/BLSnotSeasJobsAdded0508

It just may be that ADP, which starts with client employee paychecks issued and projects what they see onto the rest of the economy, is picking up on hiring shifts at small and medium-sized businesses — clearly favorable this year, especially in the Service-providing sector, according to the company — sooner than Uncle Sam’s folks at BLS, who rely on state-provided jobs and unemployment data plus various surveying techniques.

Evidence that there may be something to this premise is that in two of the past three years, BLS had to make what it calls “Comprehensive Annual Revisions” to the jobs numbers. The two revisions involved had the effect of adding at least 1.3 million jobs (Feb. 2007 – over 900,000 added; Feb 2006 – 400,000 added, per this New York Times article) that were not part of the information routinely reported in BLS’s Employment Situation report (and thus went relatively ignored by the business press).

Aversa’s repeated misrepresentations over “pink slips,” plus other worse-than-rookie mistakes noted earlier this week in an unbylined AP report (see closing paragraphs at this NewsBusters link; at this BizzyBlog link) justify concern as to whether the folks at the self-described “Essential Global News Network” even comprehend the previous three paragraphs. But assuming for the moment that they do, I suspect that their interest in following up on the BLS v. ADP issue before about mid-2009 would be low. That’s because what they find in comparing the two, and in dissecting their relative accuracy, might disturb the wire service’s almost invariably shrill, too-often ignorant, and sometimes falsehood-based narrative.

So don’t expect groundbreaking investigative reporting about the reliability of the monthly jobs numbers anytime soon from AP. There’s a recession to keep shouting about, and if they shout long enough, they may help give us a real one — just in time for November.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

$8 Gas a Good Thing? I Don’t Think So

Note: This column originally appeared at Pajamas Media on ____day.

_________________________________________

There really are people out there praising high gas prices.

They naturally include those who believe that “cheap gas and a clean economy are mutually exclusive,” even though the air got continually better in the US for decades while gas prices declined in real terms. If they’re truly mutually exclusive, how did that happen?

Then there are those who, like this gentleman, believe that higher gas prices can bring about a return to “true values that have meaning.” I get that, but convincing families to eat more meals together or to get more involved in charities should be independent of that.

One of the high-price praisers is in the business press. He’d like to see prices go twice as high.

He is Chris Pummer at MarketWatch.com, in “$8-a-gallon gas: Eight reasons higher prices will do us a world of good.”

That Pummer has authored such a piece would not surprise those familiar with his previous work.

In August 2002, Pummer complained that because California had no employer-paid family leave law, “I couldn’t even afford the ‘bereavement’ airfare to bury my mom, let alone taking time off to be with her when she died.” California passed such a law that became effective in 2004 — yet another explanation beyond those I mentioned in a previous column why the state is currently holding back the US economy.

Also that month, Pummer expressed disgust that U.S. workers weren’t uniting in revolt:

U.S. workers see evil, hear evil and speak evil, but we’ve become too gutless to utter even a modest demand to our employers.

….. American business provides the worst employee benefits of major industrialized countries and those we do have are being continuously scaled back …..

….. Of course, we have only ourselves to blame for our plight. We turned away from the union bosses and found no one else to stand up for us.

MarketWatch really is a daily business publication, not an adjunct to the AFL-CIO.

Pummer’s pitch for $8-a-gallon gas is also permeated with hostility. He characterizes oil as “poison,” and “the pus of the earth.” With classic urban-planner arrogance, he seethes with contempt for “antiseptic, strip-mall communities” and “cookie-cutter developments slapped up in the hinterlands.”

Here are my responses to Pummer’s reasons to “rejoice” at $8-a-gallon gas.

1. RIP for the internal-combustion engine — Name something other than the computer chip that has led to more human freedom — of movement, of flexibility, and of enjoyment. You can’t. If a replacement arrives, fine, but that’s not what environmentalists really want. “For the cause,” they want us to limit our movement, have less flexibility, and, inevitably, to enjoy life less. No thanks.

2. Economic stimulus — Pummer believes that $8 gas would “trigger all manner of investment sure to lead to groundbreaking advances.” Innovation is great, but it’s really irritating that he would be so cavalier about what $4 a gallon gas has already caused. For example, it surely contributed to GM’s Tuesday announcement that it would close four plants (which, incidentally, employ a lot of union members).

3, 4 and 8. Wither the Middle East’s clout; deflate oil potentates; ease global tensions — The only reason those folks have their clout is that we haven’t allowed enough exploration and drilling in the U.S. On Tuesday, Bloomberg had a story that referred to “Saudi-sized reserves” in the Dakota oil fields. Do you mind if we retrieve it, Chris?

5. Mass-transit development — Americans have been using mass transit in record numbers. No, I’m not talking about bus and rail lines. I’m talking about the greatest mass-transit system ever conceived by man — the system of roads, expressways, and highways. Remember what I said about freedom of movement, flexibility, and enjoyment? The highway system has provided more of each than any other mass transit system. Yes, there are congestion problems, but I have solutions: Build roads to accommodate the traffic, and charge reasonable tolls during peak hours.

6. An antidote to sprawl: Sure, the automobile has enabled sprawl, but I maintain that three things accelerated sprawl: high crime, exorbitant taxes, and lousy schools. To the criticism that affordable gas prices have helped families who care to escape these menaces, I say “Thank God.”

7. Restoration of financial discipline: Pummer believes that vehicle loans have contributed to our overburdened debt situation. But no one twisted anyone’s arm to buy things they couldn’t afford. Also, allow me to contend that many families have taken on debt willingly in the name of accomplishing important goals whose achievement requires freedom of movement and flexibility, ultimately maximizing enjoyment and accomplishment for family members. Exactly what is wrong with that?

Affordable fuel has led to a U.S. standard of living that is the envy of the world — one that the world, other than its control freaks, wants to emulate. While busy “rejoicing” over expensive fuel, Pummer overlooks the fact that those who can least afford it are the ones who are hit the hardest. That’s quite an oversight for a guy who has urged a workers’ revolt.

Positivity: ‘Sunflower Girl’ Thanks The Men Who Saved Her Life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:49 am

From Macclenny, Florida (video at link):

May 23, 2008

Just outside the high school football stadium in Baker County on Friday night there was a reunion after 14 years. Three Jacksonville firefighters had the chance to see the girl they first met when she was four-years-old and they saved her life.

“They’re my heroes, they’ve really influenced everything I’ve done, they saved my life and if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here,” says Brittany Dale.

Back when Ken Middleton, Brian McElrath and Steve Huber first met Brittany Dale she was choking on a sunflower seed.

They had to put a tube down her throat and take her to the hospital.

A week later, fully recovered, she came to visit them at the station and they called her sunflower girl.

“Brittany stands out in my mind as the one run, I mean if I had to take one with me it would be Brittany, a beautiful child in a lot of trouble and she’s perfect,” says Middleton.

“I got the biggest hug I think I ever had in my life and it made me feel wonderful,” says McElrath.

Friday night all three men watched Brittany graduate from Baker County High School and saw their sunflower girl all grown up. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.