The mainstream media are ecstatic; National Public Radio proclaimed the headline breathlessly this morning: jobless claims are at their lowest levels in four years! New claims fell by an astonishing 30,000 in one week! It's an unbelievable improvement in the national job market--"unbelievable" being the key word.
The problem, as Zero Hedge notes--and as even the Labor Department admits--the numbers are incomplete: "one large state didn't report some quarterly figures." Conveniently, the drop means that new jobless claims are at the lowest levels since Jan. 2008. Back to where we started, right? Just like in the overall job market, where the Bureau of Labor Statistics "found" 400,000 jobs last month to put President Barack Obama at net zero.
There is nothing happening in the broader economy--which is slumping towards an anemic 1% growth rate--to justify the "new" jobs picture that the government has presented in the past few weeks. Nothing except the addition of new government workers to state and federal payrolls in spite of extreme debt and scarcity, nothing except the expiration of federal unemployment benefits that may have spurred thousands to take part-time jobs.
There is also a long history to revising the jobs numbers. Again, as Zero Hedge points out, news headlines have dramatically over-reported the drop in jobless claims, while subsequent revisions have put the drop slightly below zero (see graph above, where the red line is the actual, post-revision change in job claims, and the blue line is the change as initially reported by the media). In other words, while the reality is a slow recovery, the media over-report bits of good news to create the false impression of a dramatic rebound. No wonder Democrats--who are more trusting of the mainstream media--also tend to believe that the economy is far stronger than it actually is.
A true dramatic improvement in the economy would be something for all to celebrate. But just as polling data have become more politicized than ever--with one major polling outlet apparently shifting its samples under legal and political pressure from the Obama administration--so, too, have economic data. An administration prepared to set aside federal law to prevent workers from receiving timely layoff notices, one that is prepared to lie for weeks about a deadly terrorist attack, is prepared to lie about anything for political gain.
Image/graph source: Zero Hedge