No more stark contrast in messaging styles can we have than these few paragraphs from The Washington Post’s online report today about the employment statistics. The stats, which come from two different sources, paint a contradictory and completely opposite picture of what experts expected. Most thought we’d actually see a bump up in the unemployment rate as more workers, encouraged by improving economic signs, re-enter the job market, while the number of jobs created would increase by nearly 150,000.
Instead, the unemployment rate dropped but few jobs were created, although “the number of people who described themselves as employed rose by 589,000.” The Post’s Neil Irwin does a good job of explaining why this surprise may have occurred.
But, this being Washington, he needs a quote from both sides on the significance of these numbers.
The White House called the the decline in the jobless rate a "welcome development" but generally refrained from celebrating the numbers, given the uneven picture they paint.
"The overall trajectory of the economy has improved dramatically over the past two years, but there will surely be bumps in the road ahead," White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee said in a statement. "The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile, and . . . estimates are subject to substantial revision. . . . It is important not to read too much into any one monthly report."
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), however, said the weak job creation shows that the Obama administration’s push to speed the economic recovery isn’t working.
"The spending binge is hurting job creation," Boehner said in a statement, "eroding confidence, draining funds away from private investment and spreading uncertainty among job creators." [emphasis added]
Note the White House, inhabited by Democrats who clearly don’t understand the 24-hour news cycle, hedge their bets, afraid that they will have egg on their faces if the trend isn’t a straight line. As if anyone will remember.
Boehner, however, isn’t worried about what will happen next month and ignores the good news in the reports. You know he already had his talking points before the report came out. “Spending binge hurting job creation,” even though there is no economic connection between the two. In fact, most economists, both conservatives and progressives, will say government spending is critical to creating jobs in a soft economy. But we’ve left that conventional wisdom in the dust. And we can’t expect journalists to point out the contradiction. That’s not their job. “Truth is relative. We’ve only got our steno pads.”
“Eroding confidence, draining away funds…spreading uncertainty.” All are strong images, even though it is unclear how the government spending less will cause “private investment” to increase.
Meanwhile, the Dems focus on “bumps in the road ahead,” volatile numbers “subject to substantial revision.”
No wonder we lose the message wars.