CNS Unemployment Reporting: Reluctantly Noting Good News
The country's employment news was so positive during 2022 that CNSNews.com had trouble finding ways to distract from all this positivity happening under a Democratic president.
By Terry Krepel
Coverage of monthly employment numbers at CNSNews.com unsurprisingly flip-flopped from positive under Donald Trump to negative under Joe Biden, even if the numbers didn't warrant it. When those numbers continued to be positive in 2022, CNS needed to find ways to spin them and cherry-pick other ones that don't make a Democratic president look good. Let's review how CNS did that over the past year, shall we?
One way to stop CNS from picking at the Biden administration over employment numbers is to turn in impressive ones. That's what happened in January, and even Susan Jones could find little to complain about in her main article:
Even before the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its January employment report, the Biden administration signaled that it was expecting a "blip" in today's data.
Jones, who is normally so good at cherry-picking numbers to denigrate the overall picture, couldn't find any this time.
The only sidebar this time was the usual grousing by editor Terry Jeffrey about government employment, but even he was forced to acknowledge a bright spot: "Government in the United States grew by a net of 23,000 workers in January with all of the government employment growth coming in local governmentsparticularly public schools--as state governments and the federal government actually decreased their employment."
Again, the unemployment numbers for February were so good that CNS had trouble trying to find a negative spin to put on them. So for her lead story, Jones went to an old standby: they're still not as good as they were under Trump before COVID:
Non-farm payrolls added a whopping 678,000 jobs in February, well above the consensus estimate of 400,000; and the unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a point to 3.8 percent, the lowest of Biden's presidency, the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics reported Friday.
The only sidebar this time around was, again, Jeffrey's complaint about government jobs, this time that "Government in the United States grew by 24,000 employees in February." He went on to note that "Government employment hit an all-time peak of 22,879,000 in February 2020" -- but he didn't mention who the president was at that time.
Since this was the somewhat scary number -- and since CNS doesn't like to publish good news about the Biden administration -- Jeffrey's story was the one given the most prominence on CNS' front page on March 4, the day employment statistics came out.
For March's numbers -- which showed that 431,000 jobs were added and that the unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent -- CNS apparently decided that good news was no news at all: There was no lead story from Jones on the overall picture, not even to push the spin that it was better under Trump before the pandemic. The only coverage of March's numbers CNS offered was the sidebar-turned-main-story from Jeffrey on government employment, serving up what passes for a bright spot by noting that while "Local governments in the United States added 20,000 employees in March ... overall government employment in the United States increased by only 5,000 thousand, as both the federal government and state governments decreased their number of employees during the month."
This coverage makes clear that if there is good news to be reported on the Biden administration, that reporting won't be coming from CNS. Jeffrey & Co. seem to misunderstand the basic concept of journalism.
CNS' pattern of downplaying positive employment numbers while cherry-picking the ones went to an extreme in Jones' lead story on April's numbers, which carried the headline "April Downer: Labor Force Participation and Number of Employed People Fall; Unemployment Rate Holds at 3.6%." Yet the article began this way:
Non-farm payrolls added 428,000 jobs in April, in line with the the consensus estimate of around 400,000, the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday.
Jones followed that with her longtime obsession with the labor force participation rate, as well as another obsession with reminding us how great things supposedly were under Trump before the pandemic:
The number of employed people fell to 158,105,000, a decrease of 353,000 from the prior month. But the number of unemployed people -- those who have actively looked for work in the prior four weeks and are currently available for work -- also dropped by 11,000 to 5,941,000.It wasn't until the eighth paragraph that Jones admitted the inconvenient truth (for her narrative, anyway) that the labor force participation rate is low because of "the growing number of Baby Boom retirees."
Jeffrey served up his usual sidebar on government employment, this time complaining that "The number of people working for government in the United States grew by 22,000 in April."
Under a headline that sneeringly dismissed great employment news as merely "not bad," Jones' lead article on May's employment numbers still -- still! -- made a point of reminding people that things were even better in the pre-pandemic Trump years and, in CNS style, continued to obsess over the labor force participation rate since that's a number that can be used to obscure the unambiguously positive numbers:
Non-farm payrolls added 390,000 jobs in May, better than the consensus estimate of 350,000, the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday.
CNS downplayed this good news further by refusing to place it in the lead-story slot at the top center of CNS' front page. That honor went to Jeffrey's usual sidebar on government employment that "increased by 57,000 in May," which passes as bad news in the CNS bubble because government employment is evil, apparently. But Jeffrey didn't play the Trump game that Jones did, because the graph accompanying his article showed that government employment, like general employment, peaked in early 2020 before the pandemic -- and, thus, under Trump, whose history of prolifigate spending has also been hidden by CNS because it conflicts with the official (and bogus) narrative of him as a fiscally responsible conservative.
CNS went the cherry-picking route again for June's numbers, when 372,000 new jobs were added. The main article by Susan Jones buried that under the confusing headline "BLS: Labor Force Participation, -0.1%; Not in Labor Force, +510,000; Employed, -315,000":
The Federal Reserve raised interest rates three-quarters of a point on June 15, and Chairman Jerome Powell said another rate hike may happen this month.
Jones remained obsessed with claiming how much better things were under Trump: "The participation rate was 61.4 percent when Joe Biden took office as the pandemic raged. Today's number, 62.2 percent, is still below the Trump-era high of 63.4 percent in February 2020, just before COVID shut things down." That was joined by the usual sidebar from Jeffrey on government employment, and he found a negative number to cheer:
The number of people working for the federal government declined by 13,000 in June, dropping from 2,866,000 in May to 2,853,000,according to the employment report released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Jeffrey also seemed happy that the number of government workers is less than it was under Trump: "In February 2020, there were 22,879,000 working for government in the United Statescompared to the 22,215,000 working for government in June 2022."
Jones' main story on July's employment numbers started out this way:
Non-farm payrolls added a whopping 528,000 in July, more than double the estimate of 250,000; and the unemployment rate edged down to 3.5 percent in July from 3.6 percent in June.
You wouldn't know any of that from the headline of the story, however, which cherry-picked all the less positive numbers and crammed them in:"62.1%: Labor Force Participation Falls in July, As 239,000 More Americans Drop Out of Labor Force." Jones didn't mention any of that stuff until the third paragraph:
But on the downside, the number of Americans not in the labor force -- no job and not looking for one -- climbed above the 100,000,000 mark again, settling at 100,051,000 in July. That's a 239,000 increase from June; and it follows an increase of 510,000 from May to June, when the number rose to 99,812,000.
One might call the headline on Jones' story false advertising. And even after conceding that the job numbers hit pre-pandemic levels, Jones still searched for a way to credit Trump for having an even better pre-pandemic economy:
The participation rate was 61.4 percent when Joe Biden took office as the pandemic raged. Today's number, 62.1 percent, is still below the Trump-era high of 63.4 percent in February 2020, just before COVID shut things down.
Instead of his usual sidebar on government jobs, Jeffrey wrote one on manufacturing jobs, admitting that they "increased by 30,000 in the month of July" and is "is now above what it was in the months immediately preceding that start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020." It must have painful for the Trump-loving Jeffrey to admit that.
In an about-face from the previous month, the headline of Jones' lead story on August's employment statistics actually matches the copy -- and the news was so good that even Jones couldn't quite figure out a way to downplay it:
Heading into Labor Day, the U.S. Labor Department on Friday issued a mostly positive report on the U.S. employment situation -- the unemployment rate rising to 3.7 percent in August from 3.5 percent in July; but the labor force participation rate also rising three-tenths of a point to 62.4 percent, a move in the right direction, as 612,000 people entered the labor force.
So to fill out her story, Jones wrote a section on "price stability" -- a completely separate subject from employment -- highlighting how Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell "warned that inflation reduction -- what the Fed calls 'price stability' -- will be painful."
Either because the numbers came out on a holiday weekend or because CNS didn't want to report any more good news about a Democratic president, this is the only story on August's numbers. Jeffrey couldn't be moved to contribute his usual sidebar on manufacturing jobs -- perhaps because they increased by 22,000 in August.
Jones' article on September's employment numbers led with future job losses before she got around to the relevant (and current) numbers, then cherry-picked her favorite number to try and make the overall picture look bad:
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned last month that raising interest rates to cool inflation is likely to dampen economic growth -- "and there will very likely be some softening of labor market conditions," he said.
And it wouldn't be Jones if she wasn't gushing over how much better things were under her favorite president: "The participation rate was 61.4 percent when Joe Biden took office as the pandemic raged. Today's number, 62.3 percent, is still below the Trump-era high of 63.4 percent recorded in February 2020, just before COVID shut things down." She did surprisingly admit, though, that the lower labor force participation rate can't be blamed on a Democratic president, conceding that it "peaked in early 2000 at 67.3 percent and subsequently trended down. In recent years, baby-boom retirements have contributed to the decline in the overall participation rate."
The recent trend of Jones' story being the only one continued, with Jeffrey abstaining from his usual sidebar on manufacturing jobs.
Jones' lead story on October's employment numbers again put the labor force participation rate in the headline and buried the good news:
In the final jobs report before Election Day, the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics said the October employment situation weakened from the prior month.
The participation rate was 61.4 percent when Joe Biden took office as the pandemic raged. Today's number, 62.2 percent, is still more than a point below the Trump-era high of 63.4 percent recorded in February 2020, just before COVID shut things down.
Jeffrey returned to serve up his usual sidebar about government employment, complaining that it increased "despite the fact that state government employment actually declined during the month." Jeffrey didn't explain why he doesn't think government jobs are real jobs.
For the first time in a while, there was a second sidebar in the form of an anonymously written piece:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) put out a statement expressing her satisfaction with the October jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and arguing that Republicans are not happy with good economic news.
The anonymous author offered no evidence that Pelosi was wrong.
CNS yet again obscured November's good employment numbers by cherry-picking other numbers. Jones actually led with the good numbers in her lead article, yet the headline read "Dropping: Labor Force Participation, Number of Employed; Rising: Labor Force Dropouts":
The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics said the economy added 263,000 jobs in November, higher than the anticipated 200,000; and the unemployment rate held steady at 3.7 percent.
When Jones got to her preferred number, the labor force participation rate, she did have to admit that Biden's record improved since he took offices while het again touting how much better it was under Donald Trump:
In November, the civilian non-institutional population in the United States was 264,708,000. That included all people 16 and older who did not live in an institution, such as a prison, nursing home or long-term care facility.
There was no sidebar this time from Jeffrey.
With the monthly job numbers looking so consistently good, CNS had to find something else to keep up its narrative, and Craig Bannister found that for a Dec. 19 article:
The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has revised the number of new jobs created in the second quarter of 2022 down by more than a million, prompting a Bloomberg market expert to issue a warning.
Because that number was too good to look into further, Bannister didn't report what other observers noted, that the Philly Fed's metric is new and untested, seasonality is not fully accounted for, and that private sector numbers did not show a dramatic employment slowdown for that period.
Even then, the jobs numbers continued to prove too strong for CNS to effectively spin. Even Jones' favorite cherry-picked number, the labor force participation rate, looked good enough that she led with it in her main article on December's employment numbers:
Reversing recent declines, the percentage of the population that is either working or actively looking for work increased slightly to 62.3 percent in December, up one-tenth of a point from November, and four basis points higher than the 61.9 percent in December 2021.
The only sidebar this month was Jeffrey's counting of manufacturing jobs, and even he couldn't spin things: "There were 12,934,000 people employed in the U.S. manufacturing sector in December 2022, which is more than in any month since November 2008, when there were 13,034,000 people in this country employed in manufacturing."