August 30, 2012

AP’s Wagner Sees ‘Slow Improvement in the Job Market’ in ‘Unchanged’ Initial Jobless Claims

First, the bad news from a media coverage standpoint. All three major wire services covering today’s report from the Department of Labor on initial unemployment claims characterized the seasonally adjusted result of 374,000 as “unchanged” from last week, but failed to note the 98%-plus probability based on the last 75 weeks of history (only one exception during that time) that the number will be revised upward by 1,000 or more, changing today’s “unchanged” number to an increase.

That’s bit ironic, given that all three wires at least told readers that last week’s 372,000 claims was revised up to 374,000. Bloomberg, Reuters, and the Associated Press had different takes on the meaning of today’s results, as will be seen after the jump (bolds are mine):

Bloomberg (Lorraine Woollert) –

Jobless Claims In U.S. Unchanged Last Week At One-Month High

More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, a sign that progress in the labor market is faltering amid a slowing economy.

Reuters (unbylined) –

U.S. jobless claims unchanged last week

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits was unchanged last week, pointing to a labor market that was treading water.

Associated Press (Daniel Wagner) –


The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits was unchanged last week at a seasonally adjusted 374,000, suggesting slow improvement in the job market.

Imagine that. AP is the only wire of the three which suggested we’re still experiencing “slow improvement” (Bloomberg at least acknowledged that its mythical “progress” was “faltering”).

AP is also the only one of the three which, at least in their initial reports, which engaged in the bogus benchmarking to which we become accustomed, and the wire service’s Wagner clearly didn’t appreciate the irony in its repetition this week:

Still, when applications fall consistently below 375,000, it generally indicates that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

There are two obvious problems here. First, claims stayed under 375,000 three out of four weeks in July, and the unemployment rate didn’t go down; instead, it went up. Second, after today’s number gets revised up by the typical 2,000-4,000 we’ve seen during the past 17 months, the result will be above the AP’s artificially moved bar (from 325,000 three years ago), which would predict yet another unemployment rate increase is coming in the government’s next report on September 7.

None of this seems to faze the AP, which trots out the same bogus 375,000-claim benchmark week after week. That’s one of many reasons why it deserves to be referred to as the Administration’s Press.

Cross-posted at


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