Friday, October 02, 2009

Obama repeats false unemployment numbers and MSM fails to catch the error

I've previously written about President Barack Obama's claim that the 'economy was losing 700,000 jobs per month' when he took office.

I've just seen a Fox News report wherein the President repeats this claim and this number, saying that the 'recovery' will come in "fits and starts."

From the White House website, Obama's remarks on the October unemployment numbers:

"I also want to say a few words about the unemployment numbers that came out today. As I've said before, my principle focus each and every day, as well as the principle focus of my economic team, is putting our nation back on the path to prosperity. Since the period last winter when we were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month, we've certainly made some progress on this front. But today’s job report is a sobering reminder that progress comes in fits and starts -- and that we're going to need to grind out this recovery step by step."(emphasis added)

This is just not true! As I wrote in September:

According to, job losses in November 2008 were 584,000 and job losses in December 2008 were 524,000. Total losses for the months of September and October 2008 were 792,000, so clearly neither month was '700,000.'

U.S. News and World Report says that the January 2009 job losses were 598,000, while the New York Times reported February 2009 job losses of 651,000.

These actual numbers show that the job loses never reached 700,000, much less averaged that much. So when the president repeats a false number, is he lying? Or just, perhaps, exaggerating? Or what?

You know what they say, 'when you repeat a lie often enough...'

Where is the fact-checking?


Lennie said...

Fact checking is left to the bloggers since the so called "main stream media" won't do their job anymore.

Norma said...

I vote for "lie." But if you repeat it often enough, it will be like the number of uninsured.

Mmatters said...

Hey Maggie, it's close enough to 700,000 that you're splitting hairs.

Assuming winter is January-March 2009, seasonally adjusted job losses were -741k, -681k, and -652k. That's an average of 691k, which is close enough to let it slide.


If he were 98.7% right about things in general, it would be a different world.

I think these months were downwardly adjusted by revisions in the months after original announcements. In fact that is the case. I looked it up, and the originals as announced each month were 598k, 651k, and -663k. That's a combined difference of 185k over three months,

Maggie Thurber said...

Mmatters - splitting hairs? Here's the thing - if this were a Republican saying it, the msm would be all over the fact that the number was exaggerated. As it's now October (September when he made the comment to The Blade and Pittsburgh Post Gazette), he's had the time and ability to be accurate with the figures and not put himself into a position of saying something that isn't true.

If he's intentionally using one set of figures and not the others, then he should say so - not use inaccurate or misleading or misconstrued numbers that make today's losses look better than they are.

I think that's my biggest concern - the numbers are NOT explained for what they are, and no one asked for clarification so the reader/listener would know exactly what was being referenced, especially if all they 'heard/read' was the original reports in the media and not the revised figures that came out later...

but thank you for the clarification

-Sepp said...

Obama repeats a lot of falsehoods that the MSM "misses" regularly. I've lost all confidence in what passes for journalism in the mainstream press. The former watchdogs who used to keep Americans informed are seemingly nothing more than the willing propaganda arm of the Obama whitehouse. Investigative news is dead in America.

Mmatters said...

Maggie, I've looked at that quote again and it finally penetrated that he was talking about "progress."

PROGRESS? Progress isn't only losing "only" a quarter-million jobs a month. That's "less decay." "There will be no "progress" until we're adding jobs, and I would argue that there will really be no "progress" until we're adding jobs AFTER the lost jobs are recovered.

Pretending that there's progress is at least as bad as fudging the numbers.

So in that sense your criticism of Obama is spot-on, and my focus on the pure numbers, while technically correct, was very incomplete. Numbers people like myself tend to get distracted like that.

Maggie Thurber said...

Mmatters - thanks!!!

James said...

Read the daily's story on the Business page today. Lot's of "facts" that aren't being checked.

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