Less Down is the New Up (Carl Bloice)

by Chris Sturr | June 14, 2009

Great piece by Carl Bloice in his “Left Margin” column at BlackCommentator.com:

New Jobless Stats: Still “Less Terrible”? Not for Some

By Carl Bloice | BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board
BlackCommentator | June 11, 2009

The Lex Column in the Financial Times got it right: “…’less down’ is now the new ‘up’ as media watchers search for stabilization in the overall market.” The writer was referring to the world of advertising where some analysts were putting a hopeful spin on revenue that fell 18 percent over the first three months of the year—the eighth quarter in a row to record a drop. But, the same might be said for the buzzwords describing the latest unemployment statistics. “Still terrible, undoubtedly, but a bit less terrible,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist for the High Frequency Economics.

I know. I made the same observation when the April jobless stats were released. But still, this verbal sleight of hand fascinates me, especially when some figures are highlighted while others are de-emphasized or ignored.

Last Saturday, AARP sent out an email that looked at first like green shoots in the economic wind until, you got to this line: “The employment picture may be opening up ever so slightly. Economists say employers are likely to begin hiring cautiously in the first half of next year, though the unemployment rate could still continue to climb.”

Last Friday it was reported that there had been a slight drop in the number of people receiving unemployment insurance payments and a decrease in the number of new claims. “This report provides a glimmer of good news for job seekers, though both declines were small and the figure remains significantly above the levels associated with a healthy economy,” said the Associated Press. Meanwhile, Shepherdson told the New York Times, “These are still terrible numbers. We’re a million miles away from a recovery.”

Over the course of last month the average work week declined to its lowest point since 1960s and the numbers of people out of work for over six months rose to 3.9 million.

Mark Lieberman, senior economist at FOXBusiness last week pointed out that the jobless rate for college graduates is soaring and “(T)he gap between the number of people unemployed and those collecting unemployment insurance widened to more than 5,000,000.”

Read the rest of the article.

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