April 19, 2012

AP Headline, As Past Two Weeks’ Initial Unemployment Claims Soar: ‘Aid Applications Decline Slightly’ (Update: Headline Changed, But Initial Damage Done)

The games the Associated Press’s Chris Rugaber and the wire service’s headline writers are playing with the weekly unemployment claims from the Department of Labor are getting tiresome, and grow seemingly more disgraceful with each passing week.

Today, DOL told us that initial unemployment claims were 386,000. Last week’s 380,000 was revised upward to 388,000. Both figures are significantly higher than the number in the low 360s seen in the four prior weeks. So of course, the headline at Rugaber’s AP story (saved here at host for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes) read as follows:

APunempClaimsDownHeadline041912

And of course, Chris Rugaber (who to his credit, at least recognized the upward revision to last week’s figure), wrote the following:

Applications have started to level off in recent weeks after months of steady declines.

Really Chris? That’s not what I’m seeing:

UnempClaimsWeeksEnding041411

Here’s more from Rugaber:

Lower benefit applications indicate that companies are cutting fewer jobs. And economists note that unemployment benefit applications are at a much lower level than they were last year, which is a hopeful sign that March’s weak numbers were a temporary lull.

Today’s not seasonally adjusted claims (367,550) were less than 4% below the same week a year ago (381,834). Neither week was affected by the timing of the Easter holiday. I don’t think a 3.7% drop qualifies as “much lower.”

It is really sad that Rugaber’s risible work is what’s going to be broadcast over much if not most of the radio and TV airwaves for the next couple of hours. The Old Soviet Union’s Tass, Pravda, and Isvestia would have been proud of him. The AP should be ashamed. That the self-described “Essential Global News Network” probably isn’t explains why yours truly refers to it as the Administration’s Press. With great power comes great responsibility, guys — and you’re not exercising it.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: The headline at AP’s 9:37 a.m. report now reads “US unemployment claims signal slower hiring.” That’s nice, but it won’t what was broadcast immediately after the report’s release until news outlets become aware of the revision.

Ouch: Initial Unemployment Claims: 386K SA; Last Week’s SA Revised up 8K; NSA Claims 4% Lower than Year-Ago Figure (UPDATE: Basically Back to Where We Were in December)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:43 am

From DOL, it looks like things are getting out of control again:

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA (SA — Ed.)

In the week ending April 14, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 386,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 388,000. The 4-week moving average was 374,750, an increase of 5,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 369,250.

UNADJUSTED DATA (Not seasonally adjusted, or NSA — Ed.)

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted , totaled 367,550 in the week ending April 14, a decrease of 22,916 from the previous week. There were 381,834 initial claims in the comparable week in 2011.

Business Insider’s email had a consensus prediction of 365,000. This is known as a really, really big miss.

Last week’s SA number of 380,000 was revised upward by 8,000.

The most recent NSA number is less that 4% below last year’s figure.

Can’t wait to see the press put lipstick on this pig, and to ignore the (again) big upward revision to the previous week. If we get a similar upward revision next we’ll be getting into the mid-390s.

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UPDATE: Two weeks after the initial release, the week ended March 31 was revised down to 362,000; I haven’t seen a downward revision after two weeks in the roughly 60 weeks I’ve been monitoring the weekly claims numbers closely. It just serves to make the last two weeks’ figures of 388K and 386K (pending revisions) look that much worse.

UPDATE 2: So we’re basically back to where we were in late December —

UnempClaimsWeeksEnding041411

If this week gets upwardly revised by amounts similar to the past couple, we’ll be worse off.

Thursday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (041912)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:15 am

Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow later. Other topics are also fair game.

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Positivity: Creator of Bible-based Facebook game lauds internet evangelism

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 8:05 am

From Denver:

Apr 19, 2012 / 02:03 am (CNA).- The internet and social media provide countless opportunities to reach people with God’s message, says the creative force behind the new Bible-based Facebook game “The Journey of Moses.”

“There are so many people out in the world who are looking for this kind of content that is positive and shares God’s message,” said Brent Dusing, founder and CEO of the Mountain View, Calif.-based Lightside Games.

“There are a lot of people who know there is a God, they just don’t know how, or haven’t taken the time, to connect with him,” he told CNA on April 9.

“If you have a heart for evangelism, and you want to use social media, then you can go use the power of being able to spread that to millions and millions of people.”

This kind of work, Dusing underscored, must be “quality, and engaging, and authentic” and produced “in a way that draws people in and gets people to think about the core of the message and life’s big questions.”

He sees “The Journey of Moses,” launched in August of 2011, as one such work that tells the story of the Bible and spreads “God’s message in a way that is fun and engaging.”

The game follows the life of Moses beginning with his time in the court of the Pharaoh. Players collect items and trade them with their Facebook friends to progress through Moses’ story.

“We get not only into the biblical authenticity of the story, but also use it as a way to have people connect with the real human, emotional elements that these people really went through,” Dusing said.

The game plot is based on the biblical account of Moses’ life, from his youth through his discovery of his origins, his return to Egypt and his leading the Hebrew exodus out of Egypt. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

Tax (Disappearing) Freedom Day

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:59 am

“We Finally Have Our Lives Back” Day will come in July.

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Note: This column went up at Pajamas Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Tuesday.

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The Tax Foundation tells us that “Tax Freedom Day®” (TFD), representing how long it will take the average American “to earn enough money to pay this year’s combined 29.2% federal, state, and local tax bill,” will arrive at about noon on April 17, the same day as this year’s federal and state income tax filing deadline, and four days later than last year.

While useful as a starting point, the foundation’s “average American” is not the same as “a typical American.”

Take the 32 days the foundation tells us is required for paying all federal income taxes. In 2009, almost half of the U.S. population was either in a household which didn’t need to file a federal income tax return, or was in one which filed a return with no federal income tax liability. This half of America didn’t have to work any of those 32 days to be free of federal income tax. Additionally, thanks to items like the Earned Income Tax Credit, the IRS handed out billions of dollars tax-free to millions in this group. To make up for all of this, the other half of the U.S. population had to work far more than 32 days to pay their federal income tax bills. Somehow, we have allowed such an arrangement to be called “progressive.”

It’s also quite instructive to see how results differ by state. The latest-occurring TFDs in 2012 are in Connecticut (May 5), New York (May 1), and New Jersey (May 1). In 2011, Nutmeg State Governor Dannel Malloy raised or created over 75 taxes and promised in return to get spending under control. As usual, the latter hardly happened. This year, collections will probably trail projections, and the state continues to face a budget deficit. In the Empire State, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s predictable answer to last year’s budget problems was “More Revenue, More Spending.” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie may be fighting the good fight against the Garden State’s tax-and-spend culture, but it hasn’t shown up yet on the TFD calendar.

Perhaps the best object lesson in fiscal folly can be found in President Obama’s home state of Illinois. Its TFD went from April 15 in 2011 to April 23 this year. Early last year, Governor Pat Quinn and his Democrat-dominated legislature pushed through massive tax hikes while doing little to rein in spending. The state has added 32,000 seasonally adjusted jobs in the past twelve reported months, just about the worst performance as a percentage of the workforce in the nation. Even worse, the state’s money woes are more serious than ever. Meanwhile, Midwestern neighbors Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan — “newly-red” states where Republican governors Scott Walker, John Kasich and Rick Snyder succeeded spendthrift Democrats in 2011 — all managed to balance their state budgets last year without tax increases.

The foundation notes that “If the federal government raised taxes enough to close the budget deficit — an additional $1.014 trillion — Tax Freedom Day would come on May 14 instead of April 17.” This year’s deficit really appears more likely to come in at about $1.2 trillion — if we’re lucky. The reported deficits in February and March were both higher than the year-ago figures for the same months. In March, the federal government set an all-time single-month spending record; the $369 billion spent was over $30 billion higher than any other previous month. Recent employment-related news, with only 120,000 seasonally adjusted jobs added in March, and initial unemployment claims “unexpectedly” shooting back up again in recent weeks, may foreshadow yet another mediocre summer for the economy, and therefore for government tax collections. A $1.2 trillion deficit would move what could be called “Government Spending Freedom Day” to about May 19.

Not to criticize the foundation, which surely wanted to avoid working up a treatise on supply-side economics, but if the federal government ever tried to raise its collections through tax increases by the roughly 50% necessary to theoretically balance the budget without cutting spending, economic growth would disappear and more than likely go negative faster than you can say “class warfare.” The predicted increases in receipts would fall far short of expectations, and might not materialize at all.

It would also not be out of line to add the costs of government regulation to the TFD calendar, simply because you’re not working for yourself when you’re engaging in state-required busywork, paperwork, and other forms of compliance. The Competitive Enterprise Institute cited a paper in its 2011 “Ten Thousand Commandments” publication claiming that “An evaluation of the U.S. federal regulatory enterprise … (found that) annual regulatory compliance costs hit $1.752 trillion in 2008.” No one can possibly believe that these costs have gone down in the past three years. Add in the cost of state and local regs, and the current figure for the annual cost of all forms of regulatory compliance and subservience is surely at least $2 trillion. That tacks on another 53 more days, taking us well past the half-year mark to about July 11, which perhaps should be tagged as “We Finally Have Our Lives Back” Day.

The proposition that we live in a genuinely free country becomes more questionable with each passing year.