The Times hasn’t always been so optimistic when it comes to one-tenth-of-a-point declines in the unemployment rate. On this very day in 1992, in the midst of the presidential campaign between George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, the government also reported that the unemployment rate ticked downward by one tenth of a point, and the Times’ treatment was far more restrained.
“Jobless Rate Dips a Notch to 7.7% in Mixed Showing,” was the front-page headline of the August 8, 1992 Times. “The nation’s jobless rate improved marginally last month, edging down to 7.7 percent from 7.8 percent,” the Times reported. “But the improvement was not enough to signal a stronger economic recovery or to help President Bush as he heads into the Republican National Convention.” Even though the number of jobs actually went up in July 1992 (as opposed to the decline of 247,000 jobs in July 2009), the 1992 Times reported that the economic news “gave no suggestion that the economic recovery was breaking out of its painfully slow pace or, more important, that the job growth was picking up enough to push the unemployment rate down significantly before the election in November.” Pollster Peter Hart told the paper that, “There couldn’t be worse political news for George Bush.”