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No good economic news for W.


Newly-unredefeated President George W. Bush got some apparent good news from the Labor Department yesterday. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

The nation added a higher-than-expected 337,000 jobs in October, boosted by fast growth in the service and construction sectors, the Labor Department reported Friday….

"I think it was really a barn-buster [sic]," Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at Wells Fargo, said of the increase in jobs. "It really reflects an improving economy. The uncertainties are diminishing, businesses have confidence and are hiring people, and consumers are moving out of a soft patch and moving to firmer ground."

Barnburner or "barn-buster," the news would effectively negate the "Herbert Hoover" criticism leveled at the President by his former opponents, John Kerry and John Edwards, as INDC Journal and blogger David Wissing both correctly point out. Most economists tend to agree:

"It looks like the job situation is improving and that this will support consumer spending going into the holidays and offset some of the drag caused by high oil prices this year," said economist Gary Thayer of A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. in St, Louis, Mo.

"A very strong month, with things pretty well spread," said HSBC economist Ian Morris.

"This report is really telling us the economic expansion is solidly in place," said Anthony Chan, senior economist with JPMorgan Fleming Asset Management. "For those naysayers who were expecting recession next year, this certainly defies those expectations."

"It very much confirms the presence of a full-fledged recovery for the labor market (and) bodes well for household purchasing power as the holiday shopping season rapidly approaches," said John Lonski, chief economist at Moody's Investors Service.

"The soft-patch of activity from the early summer is now officially over," says Stephen Gallagher, chief economist, SG Corporate & Investment Banking.

"The employment picture is completely changed with this report," say three more economists from Bear Stearns. "Payroll employment is once again rising at a pace above 200,000, which should be sufficient to bring the unemployment rate down further over the next few months. We think perceptions of the strength of the economy will be revised up in the wake of this report."

Even so, you can always count on the Democratic-media complex to find a cloud in the silver lining. Here's The New York Times (second, third and fourth paragraphs of a story by Eduardo Porter):

Economists cautioned, however, that a short burst of strong growth did not necessarily mean that hiring would continue at such a vigorous pace. [Italics mine.] Since the economic recovery began in late 2001, a couple of encouraging spurts in employment have quickly fizzled out.

"This is the kind of job report you want to see at this stage of an economic recovery," said Jared Bernstein, an economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute in Washington. "But we've been here before. Whether this will be a persistent trend is hard to know." [NOTE: The Washington Post, in a June 19, 2004, article by Paul Farhi, described Bernstein as "one of several economists allied with the Kerry campaign."]

With the election over, the new report had little political consequence, but both parties cited it anyway. Democrats pointed out that there were still 371,000 fewer nonfarm payroll jobs than there were when President Bush took office nearly four years ago.

Here's The Los Angeles Times (fourth and fifth paragraphs of an article by Joel Havemann):

Only time will tell, though, whether the labor market is really gaining steam—or whether bigger job gains will prove ephemeral, as they have before. [Italics mine.]

"We saw similarly strong job growth in the early spring, but it faltered over the summer," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute. "We will see over the next several months whether the labor market has finally established a firm recovery." [NOTE: Fellow EPIer Mischel has co-authored articles with Bernstein and worked with him as part of Kerry's team of economic advisors.]

And here's The Washington Post (sixth and seventh paragraph of a story by Nell Henderson, which attributes the spike in job growth largely to hurricane clean-up efforts in the Southeast):

However, some analysts cautioned that the pace of hiring is likely to slow after the hurricane effects fade. [Italics mine.]

"While we are encouraged by this latest spurt, we seriously question its sustainability," said Richard A. Yamarone, director of economic research at Argus Research Co. "Businesses are making do with their existing workforces and really don't need the added expense of labor, especially amid soaring energy and raw-materials prices. Many businesses have decided that the skyrocketing cost of health care and medical benefits are simply too much to handle and have decided to eliminate positions."

Recently, a systematic study of newspaper headlines (available as a free download from the linked page) by Kevin Hasset and John R. Lott of the American Enterprise Institute showed an overwhelming tendency in the mainstream media to over-report bad economic news and under-report good economic news under President Bush, as contrasted to an opposite tendency under President Clinton. The study, of course, has been attacked by liberals for focusing on headlines rather than on the stories themselves.

Yet, even when you drill down, the result is the same: In the mainstream media, there can be no good economic news for President Bush.

Posted by Rodger on November 6, 2004 at 11:02 AM | Permalink


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