Fox News attempted to negatively spin a January jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) by complaining about a lack of manufacturing jobs being created. Unfortunately for Fox, the report actually revealed robust job creation in manufacturing, which put total employment in that industry at a seven-year high.
On February 5, the BLS released its monthly "Employment Situation" summary for January 2016. The data showed that the economy created 151,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate fell marginally to 4.9 percent -- its lowest point since February 2008. Economists and experts generally agreed that the report was "very encouraging."
On the February 5 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto and Fox Business host Gerri Willis complained that the report did not show enough evidence of job creation in well-paid industries like manufacturing (emphasis added):
GERRI WILLIS: A jobless rate of 4.9 percent, that is an eight-year low, looks so good. Lucious, right? Maybe not ... The number of jobs created in the month, you're showing it right now: 151,000. A disappointment compared to what we expected: 200,000.
Now, good news on the wages front, up over the last 12 months 2.5 percent. You can see that there, $25.39 an hour. So that seems to be good news. Dig further though, Neil, what do we see? Here's what we see, the jobs created are disappointing. 58,000 retail jobs, we're talking about clerks, cashiers, people who walk through the Walmart, those are the kinds of jobs created. And also, restaurant and bars, so waitresses, waiters, bartenders, 47,000 jobs created.
We know from experience that these aren't the kind of jobs that can really fuel family growth, fuel family wealth. This isn't what the middle class needs right now, and that's what's so disappointing about this jobs report, today. We're not seeing the kinds of big-time manufacturing jobs being created in this economy, and that's what Americans really need.
Unfortunately for Fox News, the jobs report Cavuto and Willis discussed actually showed robust job creation in manufacturing (+29,000). MarketWatch columnist Rex Nutting noted that those 29,000 new workers pushed total manufacturing employment to 12.4 million, a seven-year high (emphasis added):
Apparently, no one told American manufacturers that their business is collapsing, because they kept on hiring more workers in January.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that manufacturing companies added 29,000 workers in January to reach a seven-year high of 12.4 million. After a soft patch in the middle of last year, it was the fourth month in a row that manufacturing payrolls had increased.
Not only were factories hiring, they were working their employees longer shifts. Average weekly hours rose a tick to 40.7 hours in January, which is significant because the manufacturing workweek is considered to be one of the best leading indicators for the health of the economy as a whole. Despite the strong dollar, the drop in export orders and the decrease in capital spending, average hours in manufacturing have been roughly unchanged since April.
A Washington Examiner column attempted to negatively spin the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) jobs report for January 2016 by misleadingly claiming that the American economy shed 665,000 jobs last month. The column failed to account for seasonal adjustments in the data series.
On February 5, the BLS released its monthly "Employment Situation" summary for January 2016. The data showed that the economy created 151,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent -- its lowest level since February 2008. According to a Bloomberg survey of economists, the monthly job creation total came in below expectations but economist Kathy Bostjancic still called the report "very encouraging."
This generally positive sentiment was lost on Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard, whose search for negative spin on the jobs report resulted in him pushing the misleading claim that BLS data actually shows "there were 665,000 jobs lost in January":
New Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that there were 665,000 jobs lost in January, a blunt finding that confuses the heralded report that 151,000 jobs were created in January in non-farm payrolls.
New York Times correspondent Josh Barro blasted Bedard's faulty conclusion on Twitter, noting that the Examiner columnist made the amateur mistake of looking at seasonally unadjusted payroll figures, which fail to account for temporary holiday jobs that disappear between December and January every year:
Here's the dumbest thing you will read on the jobs report all day: https://t.co/35qX2syALc-- Josh Barro (@jbarro) February 5, 2016
This dude looked at the seasonally *unadjusted* numbers. Of course they were lower; employment is always lower in January than December.-- Josh Barro (@jbarro) February 5, 2016
Retailers hire people for the holiday season and then lay them off, every year. That's a main reason we do seasonal adjustment.-- Josh Barro (@jbarro) February 5, 2016
With baseline economic indicators consistently improving throughout the Obama administration, right-wing media outlets are becoming increasingly desperate in their attempts to cast the monthly jobs report in a negative light. Fox News and Fox Business misleadingly complained for three consecutive months about job creation figures that far exceeded economists' expectations.
New polling from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 62 percent of Americans viewed the Republican Party as favoring the rich, compared to 26 percent who see Republicans as favoring the middle class, and 2 percent who see them as favoring the poor. This huge disparity in public perception of Republican policies is often lost on media outlets that fall for lofty GOP rhetoric claiming to care about low- and middle-income Americans.
The Washington Post highlighted research demonstrating "only a weak relationship" between increased economic growth and increased economic security in the United States. The findings undermine a core tenet of conservative economic philosophy, often parroted by Republican presidential hopefuls and conservative media outlets, which claims that so-called "pro-growth" strategies like tax cuts are the best policy for alleviating insecurities faced by millions of Americans.
In a February 2 post for The Washington Post's Wonkblog, reporter Emily Badger outlined how recent research from the Brookings Institution reveals a "weak relationship" between economic growth rates and improved economic inclusion in the country's 100 largest metropolitan areas. According to the Brookings report, from 2009 through 2014 the "growth/inclusion relationship was relatively weak" and consistent economic growth "hasn't revealed much about whether we are resolving larger challenges around providing improved economic opportunities for all."
The Post concluded by highlighting how the Brookings data seemingly debunks economic policy talking points promoted by Republicans including Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan, which fixate on economic growth as one of the major solutions to poverty. From The Washington Post (emphasis added):
Look across all 100 of these metros, and there's only a weak relationship between economic growth and inclusion. Areas with rapid growth haven't necessarily swept up the poor and working class. In many places where relative poverty has declined (like Jackson, Miss.), the economy isn't growing much:
This non-pattern is notable precisely because the rising-tide theory remains so alluring, particularly among Republicans. Grow the economy, they argue, and that will improve job prospects and living standards for everyone -- the poor, the working class, minorities and other groups that have been left behind. Economic growth, they add, will achieve far more than any targeted program or government spending.
"The best anti-poverty program is economic growth," Paul Ryan declared in the Wall Street Journal two years ago, as he was beginning to roll out his own poverty agenda.
"Economic growth is the key to everything," offered Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Here's Jeb Bush's take, in arguing that 4 percent growth will create jobs enough for everyone: "So many challenges could be overcome if we just get this economy growing at full strength."
Rand Paul insists that this logic will specifically lift up African Americans, who should reconsider "the Republican promise" for policies that boost economic growth.
The data that we have, though, shows that inclusion doesn't work on autopilot. Sometimes -- often -- economic growth happens without broad benefits. And that means we have to actually be intentional in bringing everyone along, in connecting poor communities to transportation, or unemployed men to job training, or minority children to better education.
The Brookings research seems to support a hypothesis endorsed by economists Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute, who argue that economic growth alone is not enough to reduce economic insecurity in the face of persistent inequality.
Despite this evidence, conservative media have claimed for years that growing the economy is the best and only solution to alleviating economic insecurity and that crafting policies to reduce inequality as a means of reducing poverty would be counterproductive. Making matters worse, the tax cuts frequently endorsed by conservative media as a means of spurring economic growth have failed to generate the promised economic returns, though research suggests cutting taxes can worsen economic inequality.
According to Media Matters' analysis of evening and prime-time economic news coverage in 2015, segments about policies focused on creating jobs and growing the economy were frequently featured on major cable and broadcast programs, outnumbering discussions of economic inequality.**
During the course of a 12-month survey, Media Matters recorded 382 segments on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC focused on economic growth -- most of which came from Fox News. The same 12-month period produced 301 segments focused on economic inequality -- two-thirds of which came from MSNBC alone.
The Washington Post gave voice to a pair of discredited researchers who falsely blamed Washington, D.C.'s incremental minimum wage increase as the core reason Walmart went back on its deal to build stores in low-income neighborhoods, a claim belied by The Post's own reporting on the retailer's decision to scale back operations at stores across the country and around the globe.
On January 15, The Washington Post reported that Walmart plans to close 269 stores this year, including 115 overseas and 154 in the United States, as it shifts its focus toward online shopping and profitable, established supercenters and grocery stores. As part of this companywide contraction, Walmart will abandon numerous planned stores, including two in low-income neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. According to a separate January 15 Washington Post report, "behind closed doors" Walmart officials are placing some blame for the company's decision to abandon expansion plans on the city's increased minimum wage, but the heart of the problem is high construction costs and a general lack of profitability at "large urban Walmarts." The Post reported that Walmart executive vice president Mike Moore is already concerned about underperformance at the company's three stores in Washington, D.C., and company officials are worried that future stores would fail to generate enough sales.
Despite the complexity of the issue, on January 27, The Washington Post published an op-ed in its local opinion section by right-wing researchers Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Michael Saltsman of the Employment Policies Institute on Walmart's decision to drop two of the five stores it had planned to build in the nation's capital. The writers blamed Walmart's actions almost entirely on the city's decision to enforce an $11.50 per hour minimum wage effective July 1. The authors claimed that it would be "irresponsible" to increase municipal wages to $11.50 per hour and "downright foolish" to consider raising wages to $15 per hour in the future, concluding that "the District should ensure that it leads the region in opportunities created, not opportunities destroyed."
The misleading op-ed came after years of research by economists debunking the claim that raising the minimum wage kills jobs, and The Post gave a platform to biased researchers who had been discredited on this specific issue. Perry has attacked minimum wage increases in Seattle by cherry-picking data to falsely suggest that Seattle lost jobs after it raised its minimum wage. Meanwhile, Saltsman and the Employment Policies Institute are tied to low-wage industries that actively lobby against raising the minimum wage.
The assertion that Walmart is abandoning expansion plans in the nation's capital as a result of minimum wage increases falls apart once you consider that the company has already committed to raising nationwide wages for most of its associates to at least $10 per hour in 2016, and once you account for the fact that it is closing stores in cities and states around the country that have lower minimum wages and costs of living than the District does. According to The Washington Post's own reporting on January 31, Walmart is closing stores as part of a national consolidation plan and D.C.'s deputy mayor of economic development told The Post that Walmart's cancellation of planned stores in the city is not "a cost issue" but instead reflects the company's decision to begin "paring down urban markets" where stores are less profitable.
In addition to Walmart's global store contraction, and its concerns about slagging sales at existing D.C. supercenters, there is also some question as to whether the company was ever truly committed to bringing the low-income neighborhood stores online.
Initially, Walmart had approached city officials about building stores in the District, and the city agreed to let Walmart build three stores almost anywhere it wanted as long as the retailer also built two stores east of the Anacostia River, in one of the poorest areas of the city where job opportunities and affordable retail products are in short supply. After Walmart built the stores it wanted in gentrifying neighborhoods, the retailer announced it would not build the two stores the city government wanted in low-income communities. On January 19, Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy wrote that the "bait-and-switch that Walmart just pulled off in the District has to rank among the sleaziest ever played," and noted that it is poor residents of color who got "burned."
With the presidential primary season in full swing, prime-time cable and broadcast evening news coverage of the economy focused on the candidates' policy priorities in the second half of 2015. News coverage of economic inequality fell considerably after hitting an all-time high in the first half of the year.
The New York Post published a discredited conservative writer's thinly-sourced report that former State Department aides to Hillary Clinton illegally "cut and pasted" classified materials and sent them to Clinton's personal email. The report seems to be based solely on the claims of a former State Department official who has worked with the anti-Clinton organization Judicial Watch.
In his January 24 report, Paul Sperry, a visiting media fellow at the right-wing Hoover Institution, reported that "former State Department security officials" say that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is "investigating whether members of Hillary Clinton's inner circle 'cut and pasted' material from the government's classified network so that it could be sent to her private e-mail address." Sperry gave no indication how the unnamed former officials would have access to information about FBI investigations.
Citing no sources at all, Sperry claimed that the FBI is "zeroing in on" former Clinton State Department aides Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, and Jake Sullivan for their alleged involvement in improperly circumventing government classification systems.
The bulk of Sperry's piece consists of speculation from retired State Department Diplomatic Security agent Ray Fournier, who reportedly "says it's clear from some of the classified e-mails made public that someone on Clinton's staff essentially 'cut and pasted' content from classified cables into the messages sent to her." Fournier theorizes that "Clinton's staff would have simply retyped classified information from the systems into the non-classified system or taken a screen shot of the classified document"; he concludes, "either way, it's totally illegal."
Sperry gave no examples of the emails that Fournier claims are "clear" evidence of illegal behavior or how he would know their redacted contents. While Sperry referenced "former State Department security officials" as the source of his claim that the FBI is investigating this allegation, he neither named nor referenced any other in his piece. Notably, Fournier has a history of conservative activism -- he conducted a review of the Benghazi terror attack on behalf of Judicial Watch, a right-wing organization with a decades-long history of attacking the Clintons.
In fact, Judicial Watch investigator Chris Farrell is the only other named source in the report -- Sperry quoted him claiming that Clinton's receipt of classified information outside secure channels "is a mortal sin" and that "a regular government employee would be crucified" if they engaged in such activity.
Sperry also baselessly claimed that "Clinton instructed Sullivan to convert a classified document into an unclassified e-mail attachment by scanning it into an unsecured computer and sending it to her without any classified markings." In fact, national security experts say it is not illegal to separate unclassified material from classified documents and send it through unclassified channels, which is what Clinton has said she was asking Sullivan to do.
Sperry -- a former Washington bureau chief for WorldNetDaily -- has a long history of producing baseless conspiracy theories.
In 2005, he published a book alleging that "Islamic radicals have worked their way into our government through intimidation and exploitation of religious tolerance." The book specifically cited conservative Grover Norquist's "ties to militant Muslim activists," a long-time bugaboo for Islamophobes. In 2009, he published a follow-up claiming that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an educational non-profit, was attempting to infiltrate Congress and undermine democracy -- by seeking to place Muslim interns in congressional offices.
Sperry recently contributed New York Post reports that claimed that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, is "a diehard communist" threat to American values, and that President Obama is building a secret racial database to allow "race cops and civil-rights lawyers" to control "virtually every aspect of society."
A Fox Business panel discussing the January 13 Powerball drawing, which could be worth up to $1.5 billion, briefly went off message after one of the network's business analysts advised viewers against buying a ticket by correctly noting "your chances [of winning] are nothing."
On the January 12 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., business reporter Gerri Willis interrupted guest host Charles Payne's monologue on the record-breaking Powerball jackpot by repeatedly saying "don't buy the lottery ticket." Willis explained that she advises her own mother against spending money on the lottery "every week" and reiterated that "your chances [of winning] are nothing" if you do purchase a Powerball entry. Payne repeatedly asked Willis to reconsider her position on playing Powerball, saying, "a buck, you can't put a buck on this thing? A buck? You can't put 2 bucks on this?":
Payne's passionate defense of buying Powerball tickets echoes an earlier segment from Fox News. On the January 9 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, co-hosts Anna Kooiman and Clayton Morris were joined by supposed lottery "expert" Richard Lustig to discuss the still-growing Powerball prize pool. The segment claimed to offer viewers "proven strategies" to win the lottery, including advice like "buy as many tickets as you can afford" and "never miss a draw":
The January 9 segment was circulated widely on Twitter and derided by several media outlets. Business Insider called it "literally the worst piece of advice about the lottery ever given," explaining that "your likelihood of winning is still incredibly low, even if you buy a bunch of tickets." ThinkProgress Economic Policy Editor Bryce Covert took to Twitter to advise her followers against buying lottery tickets, including the Fox & Friends Saturday segment in a long piece of research explaining how state-sponsored lotteries are essentially "a regressive tax on the poor."
The odds of purchasing a ticket with the winning combination to Wednesday's Powerball drawing are approximately 1 in 292.2 million. The odds of being struck by lightning in a lifetime are 24,000 times greater than that.
Contrary to Fox's previous guidance, you cannot meaningfully increase your odds of winning by purchasing extra tickets or playing every week. Your odds of winning any single drawing never change -- they are always 1 in 292.2 million. And buying enough two-dollar tickets to give yourself winning odds is preposterously expensive -- purchasing $1 million worth of tickets would give you just a 0.17 percent chance of hitting the jackpot, whereas approximately $292 million worth of tickets would still put your winning odds at no better than a coin flip.
Fox Business host Stuart Varney opened his show this morning by downplaying the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) jobs report for December 2015, marking the third consecutive month that Fox personalities have attempted to cast stellar job creation figures in a negative light.
On the January 8 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney opened the show by downplaying the December 2015 employment summary from the BLS, which showed the economy added 292,000 jobs last month. After accounting for upward revisions to job creation totals in October and November, the December report was the strongest jobs report of 2015. Instead of acknowledging these facts, Varney referred to this report as "modest by historical standards" and lamented that it was a sign of the "new normal in the Obama years." Later in the segment, Varney and guest Paul Conway, a former Bush administration official, combed through the report for kernels of negative data. Far from being "modest by historical standards," in the 77-year history of the BLS monthly jobs report, only 171 of the 923 months (18.5 percent) have seen job creation equal to or greater than the December 2015 total.
Varney's disingenuous complaint fits a trend at Fox News, where on-air personalities continue to lament consistently improving economic data. On November 6, 2015, Fox & Friends co-hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Steve Doocy stumbled through a segment on the outstanding October jobs report, with Hasselbeck confusingly claiming that "only 271,000 jobs" had been created that month. On December 4, 2015, in response to a strong November report that beat most economists' expectations, Varney still managed to conclude that the pace of job creation was "mediocre."
The December report showed that the economy added 2.7 million jobs in 2015 and the national unemployment rate remained stable in December at 5.0 percent. BLS revisions to October and November jobs figures combined to add 50,000 more jobs than previously reported, bringing the 3-month average for job creation to 284,000, its highest level since the end of last year.
In the face of Fox's contrarian reporting, actual economists were elated by the job market news. University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers began a stream of tweets about the report by stating "It's beautiful. Just beautiful." A blog by economist Jared Bernstein called the December data "another welcome show of strength" for the ongoing economic recovery. In a statement to The New York Times, economist Mark Zandi described the December report as "remarkable" and an "achievement":
"The remarkable thing is how consistent employment growth has been over the past three or four years," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "We're getting at least 200,000 jobs per month on a consistent basis. That's quite an achievement."
Watch the full opening remarks from Varney & Co. below:
STUART VARNEY (HOST): 292,000 new the jobs created, modest by historical standards, the new normal in the Obama years. But hourly earnings unchanged, that's important.
In 2015, conservative media outlets -- led by Fox News -- set a new standard for attacking the least fortunate members of American society, targeting low-income workers, recipients of government assistance, and the homeless in a campaign of misinformation. The campaign was so pervasive that President Obama personally addressed it during a leadership summit dedicated to alleviating poverty. In recognition of their exemplary efforts to distort the public discourse on poverty, here are five of the worst trends in right-wing media poor-shaming from 2015.