What a difference a (D) makes! In 2003-4, George Bush got derided for talking about economic recovery during the 2004 election campaign while unemployment declined from 6.2% to 5.6%. Critics derided it as a “jobless recovery,” including the Washington Post. Now, however, an increase in unemployment has become a measure of improvement in the economy as it goes up to 9.5%:
The big news of the week should be Friday’s employment report, which many analysts suspect will show that the labor market, while still quite bad, continues on a path toward stabilization. Economists are expecting the unemployment rate to rise to 9.5 percent, from 9.4 percent, and for employers to have cut 228,000 net jobs in August, compared with the 247,000 jobs lost in March. That job loss number — or even better, a figure that starts with a “1,” would be strong evidence that improvement in the economy is finally filtering through to the job market in a serious way.
But there are reasons to doubt that will happen. Most notably, the rate of new jobless claims has failed to come down significantly in recent weeks, which suggests businesses are still eager to pare back their payrolls. Thursday, the Labor Department said 570,000 Americans put in new claims for unemployment insurance benefits, down only barely from 580,000 the previous week.
Really! This is what the Post had to say in a news report from August 2004 about “jobless recovery”:
For President Bush, tax cuts have been an all-purpose elixir, a cure for budget surpluses and a bursting stock bubble, for terrorist attacks and boardroom scandals, for the march to war and a jobless recovery in peacetime.
Now, after three successive tax cuts, and after a record budget surplus has turned to a record deficit, the president faces an unenviable choice. He can either concede that his $1.7 trillion tonic has not worked as advertised, or he can insist that the economy is strong despite the slowdown in growth and job creation.
Unemployment at that time: 5.4%, down from 5.5% the prior month.
And this is what their editorial board said about jobless recovery in January 2004:
As Chairman Alan Greenspan said yesterday, the United States has lost jobs to foreigners before, yet it has always created others. The Fed committee that sets interest rates meets today and tomorrow, and will demonstrate one of the reasons why the new protectionism is misguided. This is not the first jobless recovery. In 1991-92 the economy grew steadily, but job growth was almost nil. …
Mr. Bush should not be blamed for this, though his irresponsible fiscal policy harms business confidence and therefore job creation.
Unemployment at that time: 5.7%, down from 6% in October.
Now the Post wants to hail a move from 9.4% to 9.5% in unemployment as “strong evidence” of economic recovery?
What a difference a (D) makes … to the coverage at the Washington Post. (via Jim Geraghty)
Update: I mistakenly wrote 9.7% instead of 9.5% in the first paragraph (and got it right in the penultimate). It’s fixed now.
Update II: We’ve featured this before, but this video from Frank Strategies more than two months ago is right on point: